HC Deb 11 February 1966 vol 724 cc782-874

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) to move the Second Reading of the Bill, may I announce to the House that I have not selected the Amendment which stands in the names of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) and other hon. Members, That the Bill be read a Second time upon this day six months.

11.8 a.m.

Mr. Humphry Berkeley (Lancaster)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

As the principal sponsor of the Bill, I recognise that it is a controversial Measure and that it arouses strong feelings, either in support or against, on both sides of the House. There are hon. Members, as there are members of the public, who would prefer that we did not consider legislation on this subject at the present time. There are even some who regret the fact that we are inquiring into what many people believe to be one of the pressing social issues of our time.

To people who feel like this, I would say only that it was recognised by a Conservative Home Secretary in 1954 that the subject of homosexuality was something about which far too little was known. It was recognised that it represented a major problem for society, and after the Wolfenden Committee was appointed it took about three years to hear and sift the evidence and ultimately to produce a report. This in itself, and the fact that the report was produced with only one dissentient, justifies our belief that after a lapse of eight years since the Committee reported the time is now ripe for legislation. Of course, the sponsors are fortified in our belief by the fact that a similar Measure has been through all its stages in another place.

When we in this House have previously discussed or recommended legislation, it has frequently been the posture of those who resisted reform that the time was not yet right. Two successive Secretaries of State for the Home Department said as much as this—the present Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, when he was Secretary of State during 1958, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead (Mr. Henry Brooke). It is interesting to note that neither suggested that the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee were undesirable in themselves nor that they went contrary to public opinion. It was suggested instead that they were ahead of public opinion.

In previous debates we have had on this subject, certain hon. Members have been inclined to resist the idea of a change in the law but have accepted the inevitability of a change at some time or another. The most notable case is my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. W. F. Deedes), who last took part in a discussion on the Wolfenden recommendations in a debate initiated by the present Minister of Health in 1960.

I recognise that, in addition to many Members of this House who have hitherto felt that the time for a change in the law was inopportune, there may be others who feel most strongly and sincerely that the changes outlined in this Bill are undesirable. I recognise that, and I recognise the sincerity with which they feel this. In turn, I hope they will recognise the sincerity of the motives of the sponsors of this Bill for believing that the changes in the law which we are proposing are desirable.

I said "the motives of the sponsors of this Bill" because it will not surprise hon. Members to know that those who are sponsoring this Bill and myself as the principal sponsor, have had a very large correspondence on this subject. As one would expect, the vast bulk of the letters to me, and I think to other sponsors, from people opposed to this Bill, are abusive, anonymous and attack our integrity and our motives. I am glad that no one in this House would wish to do that.

I would like to refer to an incident which, somewhat to my regret, achieved some publicity a little earlier this week. It concerns my hon. Friends the Members for Bromsgrove (Mr. James Dance) and Eastbourne (Sir Charles Taylor). They decided, perfectly properly, that it would be right for the opponents of this Measure to be reminded of today's occasion. Consequently they sent out reminders for this purpose. Both have subsequently explained to me that they regret that the description of my Bill, which was a rather cryptic one, did not entirely correspond with the purposes which my co-sponsors and I had in mind. I entirely accept the explanation which my hon. Friends have given, and I fully accept that their motives in circularising Members were wholly and completely honourable.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

; Just for the record, I wish to make it clear that I did not send out that notice. Although I supported it to the fullest extent and added my name to it, I did not publish it.

Mr. Berkeley

I want merely to confirm that, in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove, I am sure his motives were perfectly honourable. Public opinion is not unimportant in these matters, because successive Secretaries of State have stressed the need to carry the public with the Government before any change in the law can be brought about. Although I am not greatly enamoured of public opinion polls, and I think that Members of Parliament of all people should not be mesmerised by them, it is worth noting that in recent months a Gallup poll and National Opinion poll have been taken on whether the public believe that a change in the law on the lines of the Wolfenden proposals is desirable.

Curiously enough, in both cases, 63 per cent. of those who were polled supported a change in the law along the lines of the Wolfenden proposals, which are the lines upon which this Bill has been based. Those who object to this Bill merely on the grounds that public opinion is not yet ready for a change in the law may wish to reconsider their attitude in the light of these polls which have recently been published. I would like to give certain reasons why the sponsors of the Bill believe that not only is it timely for the law to be changed, in terms of public opinion, but also why we believe fundamentally that a change in the law is necessary.

Before the Wolfenden Committee produced its Report in 1957, there was a great deal of ignorance in this country about homosexuality, both about its causes and its prevalence and nature. Since then the question has been widely discussed, and other publications have also appeared, notably a publication by Mr. Michael Schofield, which was sponsored to some extent by the Home Office and was part of the research promised by Lord Butler in 1960 when he resisted the idea of changing the law. A great deal more knowledge has become available to the public and hon. Members about this subject. Whereas 10 or 15 years ago most of us could have been properly excused for thinking that homosexuality was a practice carried on by people of unusually perverted morals who had the alternative of leading perfectly normal heterosexual lives but who deliberately chose a more vicious way of life as a matter of preference, this is now something in which it is no longer possible for us to believe in the light of the immense amount of evidence that has become available.

One of the facts which all of us should bear in mind is that, although estimates are difficult to make with precise accuracy, it is generally believed that there are something like 5 per cent. of the male population who are exclusively homosexual in their desires. That is, there are approximately 5 per cent. of the males of this country who have normal sexual urges who are attracted solely and exclusively towards members of their own sex.

This provides us with evidence which many of us would have lacked 10 or 15 years ago. It makes it clear that homosexuals have a choice. Anybody who suggests that they do not have a choice is wrong; but their choice is a harsh one, sterner and more brutal than many people imagine. The basic choice which they have is whether to be chaste or to commit homosexual acts. They do not have the choice, for the most part, of whether they should commit homosexual or heterosexual acts. This I believe to be absolutely fundamental in our thinking about the law on this subject.

The second point which we should consider is this. On the evidence available—this is brought out particularly in Michael Schofield's book—the vast number of homosexuals who were subjected to interviews to prepare the material for this book passionately wanted to be heterosexual and disliked intensely their own physical condition. As far as one can see from the evidence, it seems likely that their condition was in-born rather than the result of corruption, and the degree of proselytisation about which we have heard so much appears to have been greatly over-estimated.

Those of us in the House who are practising members of the Christian faith—and I regard myself as one—are faced with something of a problem. All of us who are Christians, and probably many who are not, regard homosexual acts as morally wrong. On the other hand, all of us who are Christians, and many others, equally must have a feeling of compassion and justice for a minority of the population who find themselves in a condition for which they have no responsibility. It is important for us to recognise that it is not a crime in this country to be a homosexual. It is a crime in this country to commit homosexual acts, and nobody has suggested—and, as far as I know, none of the opponents of the Bill has suggested—that homosexuals are responsible for their condition.

Let us see what the law as it stands does. If it is accepted that, say, 5 per cent. of the males in this country are in a homosexual condition for which they have no responsibility, if it is accepted that homosexuals are likely to be as highly sexed in terms of desire as heterosexuals, we are giving this 5 per cent., who, let us face it, amount to about 1 million people, a stark choice; either they are chaste for their entire adult life, or they commit a single indiscretion and become criminals and liable to prosecution. We should recognise that this is what the law does and says.

One of the other interesting facets of the information now available to us as a result of the Wolfenden Report and other data, particularly Michael Schofield's book, is that it removes what must have been a very prevalent view among most people who were ignorant about homosexuality, namely, that the average homosexual had a preference for young boys. As far as I can judge on the evidence which I have looked at, there is absolutely no evidence to show that homosexuals are more likely to be attracted by or to assault juveniles than heterosexuals. It is extremely important for us to recognise this point. I will come to the question of penalties, particularly in relation to minors, later. I believe that our of justice and compassion to a sizeable element in our population a change in the law is desirable.

There are at least two other reasons, which may have a more widespread appeal particularly among those who, for perfectly honourable and natural reasons, find this a subject which they can consider only with revulsion, why we should contemplate a change in the law. The first is that at present the law is totally and completely unenforceable. Nobody has ever attempted to enforce it except in a most arbitrary way. If we assume that there are 1 million homosexuals in this country, and if we assume, therefore, that millions of homosexual acts take place every year—50 or 60 million is the estimated figure given by Michael Schofield—and if we recognise that only 1,300 prosecutions take place, this makes the unenforceability of the law absolutely plain to everybody. If a law is completely unenforceable, and if nobody attempts to enforce it, it must be a bad law and must bring the law clearly into contempt.

I should like to say something about what I understand to be the enforcement of the law. The vast bulk of the 1,300 prosecutions are not against consenting adults in private. For the most part, they are in respect of offences committed in public. They may be offences against byelaws. They may be offences of assault. They may be offences against minors. I think that every hon. Member believes that all of these should remain part of the law.

There are, however, I understand, approximately 100 offences a year which are now illegal and which fall into three categories. There is the offence which is called the stale offence—that is, it took place over 12 months previously. There is the offence which comes to the notice of the police as a result of blackmail threats. There is the offence which the Bill seeks to make no longer an offence—an act committed in private by two consenting adults. I am told that the offences in these three categories add up to approximately 100 a year. By far the greater number of the millions of homosexual acts which we understand take place occur in private and would no longer be a crime if the law were changed and which even now are hardly ever prosecuted except in the most arbitrary fashion.

I understand that in the last year or so there has been a change in attitude on the part of the prosecuting authorities towards certain categories of homosexual offences and that the Director of Public Prosecutions has invited chief constables to consult him on any homosexual offences which fall within this category of the 100—that is to say, blackmail, stale offences or offences committed by adults in private.

I have heard it said—and that is why I wish to make the point clear—that chief constables have to secure the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions before a prosecution is made for offences that fall within these three categories. This I believe to be completely untrue. A chief constable has complete discretion as to whether to prosecute. In the case of offences concerning adults in private, the object of the Director of Public Prosecutions in making that request to chief constables was not, as many people think, to stop prosecutions altogether. It was merely to secure some sort of uniformity in prosecutions as between one police authority and another, and that is plainly desirable. In no case, however, can the Director of Public Prosecutions instruct a police officer not to prefer a charge.

Those who say that there is not much need to change the law because prosecutions are very few and may well become fewer ignore two undesirable possibilities. The first is that the law is ignored, and that is always bad. The second, however, is that a category of people, namely, chief constables, are being given a power to defy the law of the country, a power which no Minister would dream of exercising. In fact, Ministers may be even less qualified than chief constables to exercise this power. It is thoroughly undesirable for a chief constable to do so either.

It seems to me, therefore, that we have to make up our minds whether we believe it to be right and just that people should be prosecuted in private as consenting male adults. I do not believe that we can shirk this issue by simply saying that there is not much point in changing the law because very few of them are prosecuted. If that is the case, the law is bad; and if the law is bad, it must be changed. In terms of the public good, enforceability is an essential.

The second point, which is far more horrifying, is the question of blackmail. It is easy to exaggerate both the amount of blackmail that homosexual offences arouse and, secondly, the amount of mitigation in terms of blackmail that a reform in the law would bring about. I have been interested to note, in my very large correspondence since my intention to publish the Bill became known, that a sizeable number of people who have written to me, most of whom, for obvious reasons, have been anonymous, have told me that they are victims of blackmail and that they are frightened to go to the police because they are not sure, if they go to the police, whether they will be able to prefer a charge against a blackmailer or whether the police will turn upon them and prosecute them for their offence.

Again, I know that the object of the Director of Public Prosecutions in asking the police to consult him in blackmail cases was to give some sort of, if not undertaking, at least reassurance to people that the State regarded blackmail as being a filthier crime than homosexual acts. Nevertheless, I believe that until that law is changed there will always be people who fear that they will be prosecuted as a result of a blackmail complaint.

The interesting fact about the 100 people a year in the three categories which I have mentioned—stale offences, blackmail and consenting adults in private—is that there were 45 prosecutions, and those prosecutions, I am informed, included people who went to the police on a blackmail complaint. This may happen rarely, but it happens.

It can be argued—and it was argued in another place—that the great fear of somebody who is being blackmailed is social disgrace and that homosexual acts, even though they may cease to be a crime, will still be regarded by most people as being morally reprehensible. This I accept. It is true.

What a change in the law would do, however, is this. If in future after the law has been changed a man is blackmailed, he will not hesitate to go to the police and the blackmailer will immediately be apprehended. If a prosecution takes place, the man who is being blackmailed, as is always the case in blackmail charges, will appear in court as Mr. X. His identity will not become known and he will not be subject to prosecution by the police because he has not committed a criminal act. Therefore, although, obviously, one cannot eliminate blackmail or even, perhaps, reduce it as substantially as we would all like to see it reduced, this is bound to have an effect in reducing the element of blackmail in homosexual cases, which I believe to be one of the most unpleasant features of the state of law in relation to homosexuality. Those, it seems to me, are the basic arguments in favour of a reform in the law.

I should like fairly briefly to go through the main principles of my Bill. It is identical to one which has already been through all its stages in another place in the last Session and has had a First Reading in another place this Session. The sponsors of the Bill have had the assistance of the Home Office in its preparation purely as regards drafting. The Home Secretary will, I am sure, make it plain that the Home Office takes an attitude of neutrality towards the Bill, but the sponsor of the Bill in the House of Lords and I are grateful to the Home Office for the technical assistance which has been given in producing a Bill which, from a technical point of view, I believe to be a good one.

Basically, there are two principles behind the Bill. The first is that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should no longer be subject to criminal penalties. The second, which is, perhaps, an amplification of the first, is that the age of consent should, we believe, be fixed at the age of 21.

I should like to deal with both those objects briefly. In the first case, I was at one point under some temptation from certain hon. Members who have been extremely helpful concerning my Bill to restrict its scope to a straight abolition of the Labouchere Amendment. In the end, together with my co-sponsors, I decided that this would not be a satisfactory measure, for a variety of reasons.

First, we came to the same conclusion as the Wolfenden Committee that there is no valid and overwhelming distinction between the act of buggery and other homosexual acts. I was reinforced in this view by the speeches made in another place by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York. It seems to me that, if one were to keep the maximum sentence for buggery as life imprisonment and abolish all penalties for other homosexual acts, one would produce a conclusion which would hardly be justifiable on the grounds of either morality or common sense.

We also decided that if buggery remained a criminal offence when committed between consenting adults in private, the unenforceability of the law would remain and the invasion of privacy, which is basically one's objection to the Labouchere Amendment, would not in any way be diminished. For these two reasons we decided to follow precisely the Wolfenden Recommendations on this point.

This matter was discussed at great length in another place. It was pointed out by both Lord Dilhorne and Lord Kilmuir that, unlike other homosexual practices which have been criminal for only a short period of time—within the lifetime of many people alive today—that of buggery had been a crime for hundreds of years, dating from the Middle Ages and perhaps earlier. Until Tudor times at least it was an ecclesiastical crime, and came before the ecclesiastical courts. Were we to have ecclesiastical courts in 1966 buggery would not be a crime because the Churches, every one of them, in Britain are overwhelmingly in favour of amending the law on the lines of the Wolfenden proposals. [Interruption.] I am virtually certain that that is the case. I understand that every major Christian body takes that view. Certainly every bishop who spoke and voted on this matter voted in favour of reform along these lines.

One should ponder on a state of affairs when a secular society, which is what we are, takes a harsher view in terms of morality than the Church itself. In medieval times the Church took a harsher view, and that is why buggery became an ecclesiastical crime.

Sir Edward Brown (Bath)

When my hon. Friend says that the bishops in another place fully support the Wolfenden recommendations, is he suggesting that the archbishops and bishops speak on behalf of the Christian congregation in this country in toto? Would it not be wrong for that impression to leave this House?

Mr. Berkeley

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention because it enables me to say what I had forgotten to say; that by a majority the Church Assembly passed a resolution in favour of Wolfenden and the Church Assembly represents the laity of the Church of England. I am a Roman Catholic, but I think that any member of the Church of England will have some respect for the teachings of his bishops, and every bishop who spoke on the subject in the House of Lords voted in the way I have described.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

The hon. Gentleman might add that the Moral Welfare Council also supports a change in the law.

Mr. Berkeley

I am grateful for that observation. I have not listed the bodies which have done so, but they are the Church Assembly, the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, the Roman Catholic Advisory Committee, the Methodist Conference, the Unitarians and others. I suggest that these represent a cross-section of Christian opinion, including the bishops, clergy and laity.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I suggest that my hon. Friend should make it clear that while the Church and the bishops in the House of Lords have come out in favour of a change in the law, they have, nevertheless, reserved their position on the question of whether particular cases are sins, as against crimes. This is important to remember in relation to what my hon. Friend said about ecclesiastical courts, which at that time dealt not only with matters of the law but also with matters concerning sin as well as the law.

Mr. Berkeley

They have not reserved their position. They have made it perfectly clear that it is not only a sin but a great sin. Nobody disputes that. However, I do not want to pursue this argument for too long. Half the trouble for the position in which we find ourselves today is that at times we find sin and crime confused with each other. One of the objects of the Bill is to cease to make these offences a crime, while recognising, as all Christians must, that they are grave sins. I hope that the House will now understand why the sponsors of the Measure have decided to follow the Wolfenden recommendations in relation to buggery.

The age of 21 as the age of consent is something to which we attach a great deal of importance. If, as would appear to be the case, the homosexual condition is a form of emotional retardedness—and this is the most accurate description one can put on it—people who are vulnerable to pressures during adolescence must be protected. It is in some ways illogical that the age of consent for girls should be 16 and that it is perfectly legal to corrupt a young girl into female homosexual practices at the age of 16 while for men the age of consent should be 21.

However, we feel that the age of consent for men should remain at 21, for two reasons. The first is because adolescence is a period of emotional instability and, therefore, protection should be given. The second is that whatever one may feel about the unpleasant nature of the physical acts involved, looking at the problem of homosexuality as a whole we see that it is the appalling emotional loneliness and frustration which leads to so many mental breakdowns. That is something for which we should offer all the protection society can to adolescents.

It has been argued that we should raise the age of consent to 25, but we believe that 21 should remain the age. It is the age at which people achieve full responsibility and if we were to raise it further—to, say, 25—it would not be satisfactory for a variety of reasons.

The remainder of the Bill, which I will very briefly mention, implements in almost precise detail various recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. Clause 2 deals with paragraphs relating to specific offences. I should like particularly to refer to subsection (2), because there the sponsors of the Bill recommend that the penalties incurred by someone over 21 seducing someone of under 21 and committing an act of gross indecency should be increased from two years to five years. That seems to the promoters of the Bill to be a most important provision, and I hope that it will recommend itself to the House.

Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)

My hon. Friend has left Clause I, but I wanted to ask a question about subsection (5) in respect of the Naval Discipline Act. It is customary in the Navy, when seamen are going ashore, to warn them against various things. As I see it now—and I shall be glad to have my hon. Friend's confirmation—we will warn the man that if he goes ashore he can commit buggery, but that if he comes back on board and does it he goes to prison, if convicted. Is that the case?

Mr. Berkeley

The relevant Sections of the relevant Acts still apply. If that is the law under the present Act, that will remain the law. The subsection does not alter the law.

Clause 3 deals with procuring, and the penalties involved are not changed. The only alteration made is that it is no longer possible to commit an offence by procuring the commission of an act no longer criminal. That is dealt with in subsection (3) of the Clause. Clause 4 introduces an entirely new aspect into this legislation, and I am told that it corresponds to the legislation that exists in relation to female prostitution.

There are two rather important provisions in Clauses 6 and 7. Clause 6 will give statutory effect to what is becoming a practice; namely, non-prosecution for stale offences. Clause 7 is important, also. It reserves for the Director of Public Prosecutions the right to decide whether a prosecution should be made against two minors who have committed an act which is an offence, and which would normally be prosecutable if committed by someone over 21 against a minor.

We are today discussing the principles of the Bill, and I have spent a great deal of time in outlining them. Hon. Members may wish to raise individual points, and I hope, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) will be able to answer detailed points if he catches your eye. In any event, it will be possible to discuss detailed points in Committee, if that stage is reached, and to secure, if necessary, certain amendments.

I have, I fear, spoken at great length, but this is a problem of some complexity. I have attempted to outline what I believe to be the motives of those of us who promote the Bill, and the reasons why it is socially desirable. I recognise, of course, that there are many people who are sincerely and honestly opposed to this Bill, and who believe that it would have disastrous consequences. To those people who are, as it were, irreconcilable in their opposition to this Measure, I would say that I hope that they will thank God each day of their lives that they do not belong to this 5 per cent. of people who are exclusively attracted to their own sex, and who have, as far as we know, a normal sex urge.

I hope that opponents of the Bill will reflect on the fact that those who have voluntarily undertaken to lead lives of chastity—namely, ordained priests and monks—as opposed to being compelled to do so by the present law—and I talk about celibates who may have heterosexual or homosexual inclinations; those who have taken this vow—are strongly in favour of a reform in the law. The reason why they are, perhaps, in favour of a reform in the law is that they know from their own experience as men of God that prayer, meditation, and the aid of the Sacraments to resist strong temptation are required in order to lead a life of absolute chastity from the start of the adult state until the grave. We should remember that this Measure is supported by people like that.

I should also like to say to those people who are hoping that this Measure will go through that I can well recognise that there may be people who are far more suitable than myself to promote the Bill—I wish we could have found as promoter a father of 19 children—but I can say that I believe that the time for a change in the law is ripe, and that, having secured so favourable a position in the Ballot, it was my duty to introduce the Bill.

I was brought up by my father, who was himself a Member of this House, which he loved, to believe that being a Member of Parliament was one of the greatest honours one could have bestowed on one. But he also taught me that it was the duty of an M.P. to do what he thought was right regardless of the consequences to himself. In that mood, I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps I may make one observation. This is essentially a non-party matter, and I believe that I am interpreting the wish of the House when I say that I shall endeavour to secure a debate which is fair to both sides of the question, rather than to both sides of the House.

11.59 a.m.

Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)

I can at least begin by saying something non-controversial. While I profoundly differ from the views expressed by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), I am sure that everyone will recognise that he has discharged his task with very great sincerity and very great ability. I hope that he will not regard it as a backhanded compliment when I say that he has made the very best of what I personally regard as a very bad case.

This is a debate in which probably most of us would prefer not to speak, because it deals with a debatable and unpleasant subject, and it is a duty from which many of us would quite naturally shrink. But it is obviously a matter which engages the attention of this House and which for a long time past has engaged the attention of the country, and it would be wrong if those of us who feel strongly and keenly about it were to shirk what is our clear duty of stating our views and our beliefs in the matter as we understand them.

There are those of us, Mr. Speaker, in this House and in the country who for conscientious reasons find ourselves compelled to oppose this Bill. It may be said of us that we are lacking in that sense of compassion to which the mover of the Second Reading referred. It may be said, again as he suggested, that we are unmindful of the particular temptations to which a considerable body of our fellowmen in this country are subject while we, happily, are immune from them. But I believe that true compassion does not require that we should pass legislation which, on the one hand, may lift the fear of prosecution from a certain body of wrongdoers if we believe that in passing that legislation it would result in a great increase in unnatural vice.

That is the view of many hon. Members of this House and many members of the public. I propose to devote my speech to the broad issue in this matter which is raised in Clause I of the Bill. I do not wish to discuss, and I do not propose to be led into discussing, the various forms of unnatural vice. The broad principle, I suggest, is clear and plain. The mover of the Second Reading of a similar Bill in another place, concluded his winding-up speech as follows: the issue remains a simple one, and…is simply that this House wants, Or it does not want, homosexual law reform. That is what it is all about. There are no ifs or buts. Make no mistake about it. That is the way the vote will be interpreted throughout the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th May, 1965; Vol. 266, c. 711–12.] I accept without hesitation that definition of the position as given by the sponsor of a similar Bill in another place.

This Bill is a further step in a long public campaign, a campaign to change the existing law, a campaign fostered by the Homosexual Law Reform Society, whose propaganda was described by the Archbishop of Canterbury in another place as: silly over-simplification of the problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th May, 1965; Vol. 266, c. 80.] Of course, everyone must recognise that organisations and individuals wishing to alter the law are fully entitled to campaign to try to secure the reforms that they desire, but it is a mistake to suppose that widespread and vocal efforts made by what many of us believe to be a minority are necessarily in accord with the convictions of a majority of people. Where there is, as in this case, a sincerely felt desire to change the law, it is natural of course that those who desire a change should be more vocal and more energetic than those who believe that the law as at present ought to be maintained.

It has been generally suggested, and my hon. Friend repeated this today, that all the churches and all Christian people are overwhelmingly in favour of this change. For the purposes of the record, if for no other purpose, we should get the facts about this right. I am quite certain that, unwittingly, my hon. Friend has been guilty of an error in what he said about the attitude of the churches. It is simply not correct to say that all the churches are in favour of this reform. The Church of Scotland is not in favour, the Church of Ireland is not in favour, and the Salvation Army is not in favour. My own church, the Baptist Church, is not in favour.

When we examine the position in some Churches which by a majority have declared themselves to be in favour, we find at once the slender basis on which that majority rests.

Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Will my hon. Friend say what is the strength of the Baptist Church in this country?

Sir C. Black

Its membership is somewhere in the neighbourhood of 400,000. When the Church Assembly of the Church of England adopted the Wolfenden recommendation and the vote was taken, the number of persons entitled to be present and to vote was 734. The number of those who voted in favour was 155 and the number of those who voted against was 138. So, of the total number of those entitled to vote in the division, 21 per cent. were in favour, 19 per cent. against, and 60 per cent. were either not present or abstained from voting.

Mr. Berkeley

Could my hon. Friend tell us when that vote was taken? Would he not agree that there has been a substantial shift of opinion in the Churches as in the country since that time?

Sir C. Black

I do not accept that there has been a substantial shift of opinion in the country. I have no information to lead me to believe that there has been a shift of opinion in the Church Assembly. On the occasion of the vote to which I have referred there was a very strong lead from the then Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord Fisher, in favour of the recommendation. He was in favour and commended it, as we all know, but, in spite of all the influence and the very great authority he was able to exercise in that Assembly, of the total number entitled to vote 21 per cent. only voted in favour.

I am not prepared to accept the view on any facts as I know them that either the church bodies or their individual members are overwhelmingly in favour—nor do I think in favour at all—of this proposed alteration in the law. I believe there are great masses of decent, honest, ordinary members of all Christian Churches in this country who are perplexed and saddened by the line taken on this matter by many of the leaders of their churches.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

When was that vote taken? The House should be informed.

Sir C. Black

I am sorry, I have not the exact date.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

I have; 1957 was the date.

Sir C. Black

I am not quite sure of the significance which hon. Members are trying to draw. I have no reason to suppose that within the Churches there has been a change of opinion on this matter. I have no knowledge that lends support to that view.

Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)

Will the hon. Member allow me—

Mr. Speaker

May I remind the House that interventions prolong speeches and I have a long list of would-be speakers today.

Sir C. Black

I have carefully read the speeches made on this matter in former debates in this House and in another place. I think the arguments in favour can be summarised in a few propositions, as follows: that homosexual acts between consenting adults are a sin but not a crime; that from the best estimates available there are between half a million and one million men who have what was described in another place as "a strang quirk of nature" which results in their being subject to temptation to this particular form of vice which is so strong that they cannot resist it and that it is therefore wrong to punish them; and, lastly, that no cure for their condition is known to medicine or to psychiatry.

These arguments have been repeated again and again. I do not accept these opinions. I do not believe that they are based on conclusive evidence. I believe that they are mistaken. If I am right in that regard, the whole case for the Bill falls to the ground.

What are the most likely consequences of passing the Bill, involving, as it does, acceptance of the underlying assumptions to which I have referred? First, we are saying to men engaged in these practices, "You may as well give up any idea of resistance to the temptation from which you suffer. You may as well give up the effort to live a more healthy life, because your condition is hopeless and no cure is known for it". We are saying, furthermore, to those who are subject to this temptation but who have so far resisted it that they may as well give up, that there is no cure for their condition. I suggest that it is a very serious and a wrong thing to say any such thing to between half a million and a million of our fellow citizens.

We also, if we pass the Bill, give a new view of this form of sin to the great mass of the nation. This fine argument of the difference between sin and crime is not an argument that is understood by the great mass of the people. The man in the street takes the simple and perhaps over-simplified view that those actions which the law condemns and punishes are wrong and that those actions that the law does not condemn and punish are right, or at any rate not very seriously wrong.

The Bill, as we have been told, fixes the age of consent at 21, but does anyone doubt that if the Bill passes into law the ink will not long have been dry upon the Royal Assent before efforts are made to reduce the age to 18 or even to 16, as was done by an Amendment in the other place? If we pass the Bill, we are in the eyes of adolescent boys and young men putting the offence on much the same level as other offences which are subject to an age limit, such as smoking or drinking. They will be inclined to say, "These practices of course are wrong when you are below a certain age, but they become right when you reach years of maturity". This must be the result in the case of the repeal of a law which has stood for over 400 years in respect of practices which have been condemned by moralists and religious leaders from the earliest days of human history.

Let us consider for a moment the effect that this legislation will have, if passed, upon our standing as a nation in the eyes of other nations. It has often been said that there are many other countries that do not have legislation of this kind. This is certainly true. But we have had legislation of this kind for over 400 years, and, in spite of our many shortcomings, we have at many periods in our history been regarded by other nations as setting certain standards. If the Bill is passed and these practices are taken without the purview of the criminal law, this will be regarded in other places as yet another defeat in Britain for sound moral principles.

Before I conclude, I want to say a few words—I hope honourable Members will bear with me in this—about what I understand to be the teaching of the Christian religion, as I understand it, on this difficult problem. I could have wished that the leaders of the Church in another place had taken the opportunity of saying very much more about this. They could have said it with more authority and far more persuasiveness than I can hope to command, but it is a fact that, unless Christianity has something to say about problems of this kind, then indeed, as is so often urged against it today—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not in order for an hon. Member to read a newspaper in the Chamber.

Sir C. Black

I was saying, Mr. Speaker, that, unless Christianity has something to say about problems of this kind, then, as is so often urged against it today by its critics, it is irrelevant to the day and the age in which we live. But the teaching of the Christian religion, as I understand it, has a great deal to say that is relevant to this problem, and I believe that if its teaching had been considered more carefully many errors of thought and judgment on this subject might well have been avoided.

The compassion which the Christian religion teaches never takes the form of minimising the exceeding sinfulness of sin and it never places a low estimate on the moral responsibility of the individual. It is surely a fundamental Christian doctrine that God hates sin but loves the sinner. The Bible declares uncompromisingly that The wages of sin is death. In the case of the offences with which the Bill deals it is particularly true, involving, as these practices do, death to that which is most valuable in the body, the mind and the soul.

The teaching of the Christian religion gives no support to the view that a wrongdoer may be tempted to such a point as to make it impossible for him to resist. Nor does the Christian religion teach that there is any condition into which a man can sink for which there is no cure and no way of salvation. It may be true from the standpoint of the medical man or the psychiatrist that no cure is known for those who suffer from this quirk of nature, but it is certainly not true of the religion which is the official religion of this country. That proclaims the unbounded grace of God and the total sufficiency of the gospel to every individual and to every circumstance.

In the records of the Christian Church there must be many stories unknown and unwritten of men who have for long been victims to these practices which we are debating today but whose lives have been changed and who have become monuments to the saving power of God.

One of the leaders of the Church in another place suggested that this problem should be handed over to a Department in the Home Office for further investigation. I venture to express the opinion that that is a counsel of futility and of despair. This is a task which the church ought to undertake, and by that I mean all branches of the Church. All those of us in this House who are active in any way in our various Churches have in large measure been neglectful in allowing this problem to continue in our midst without seeking positive measures by which we could assist this body of forgotten men for whom our compassion ought to have been shown in some practical form of service.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

As I understand it, the Most Reverend Primate does believe that many of these unfortunates are curable but he says that the present state of the law militates against their coming forward to be cured.

Sir C. Black

I would hope that as a result of this debate those of us who are in any way active in the various church bodies will go back to our Churches in penitence to seek means whereby we can co-operate more effectively in reclaiming this large body of men who need the succour and help which I believe the Church and the Christian religion alone can give. But I do not believe we serve the cause of these men by suggesting that they are incapable of a better life or that they are suffering from a condition for which there is no cure; nor do we help the solution of what is admitted to be a difficult problem by the State withdrawing its existing disapprobation from acts which most people regard as loathsome and debasing.

If in speaking thus I have unwittingly upset any right hon. or hon. Gentleman on either side of the House I must express my regret, but I have never spoken with a stronger sense of compulsion than on this occasion, and to have remained silent would have been an act of unfaithfulness towards the things in which I most firmly believe.

12.22 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I am sure the whole House will agree that the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) has spoken with deep and strong convictions on this subject, which is one on which passions are held keenly by all those who take an interest in it. The hon. Gentleman has put the view held by many church people. I think it is clear that very many others—certainly the majority in the Church of England—take a different view.

I should, however, like to comment on one or two of the arguments which the hon. Gentleman has advanced. First, on his concluding suggestion that the churches should have taken a more active part in helping unfortunate homosexuals than they have done in the past, I want to refer him to a statement which was quoted in another place during the recent debates by the present Archbishop of Canterbury. He quoted a speech by the previous Archbishop who described the state of some of these men to whom we are referring as living in a nightmare world into which there can be no entrance of the forces of rightness until the offences are made not criminal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th May, 1965; Vol. 266. c. 83.] I hope the hon. Gentleman and those who consider that the churches should play a greater part in helping homosexuals and curing them will bear that in mind and will remember that this view is held, not only by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, but, no doubt, by the 17 bishops who signed a memorial asking for the reform of the law, and that to cure these people it is an essential first step to remove criminality from the act of homosexuality.

Then the hon. Gentleman said that it would be confusing to the public if Parliament declared that what may be a sin should not necessarily be considered criminal. But the logic of that is that everything which the hon. Member thinks is wrong and undesirable, such as adultery and prostitution, should also be made a crime by this House.

Sir C. Black

Surely the right hon. Gentleman realises that when we make certain offences which for over 400 years have been contrary to the law of this country cease to be contrary to the law, the man in the street must conclude from that that Parliament has now decided that things believed for 400 years to be wrong are no longer wrong.

Mr. Strauss

The hon. Gentleman has, I think, conceded this point, that what is morally wrong should not necessarily be made a crime punishable by imprisonment.

Then he goes on to another fallacy. He said that it has been the law of this country for 400 years that the offence with which we are dealing in Clause 1, homosexual acts by two consenting adults over 21 in private, was a crime punishable by imprisonment. Nothing of the sort. I should like to quote to the hon. Member the view expressed in some detail and at length—I am going to read only the first sentence or two—by Sir Travers Humphreys, who said: Until that Act— that is the Act of 1885— came into force, on January 1, 1866, the criminal law was not concerned with alleged indecencies between grown-up men committed in private. Everyone knew that such things took place, but the law only punished acts against public decency and conduct tending to the corruption of youth. In fact, what we are talking about today is not a 400 year old law but a law that was enacted 80 years ago. The question is whether that law during the period it has been on the Statute Book has served the country or whether it has, as many of us think, done more harm than good.

I should also like to say that shortly after that Act was passed the Recorder of London described it as being "a blackmailer's charter". Of course, he was proved to be right. As we know, it was stated by an Attorney-General not so long ago that 95 per cent. of blackmail cases that come before the court are concerned with homosexuality.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

The right hon. Gentleman really should not misquote things. It is bad enough when he quotes correctly but it is even worse when he misquotes. What Lord Jowitt said was that in his experience 90 per cent. of blackmail cases involved some element of homosexual conduct. That is very different from what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Strauss

I do not think there is much difference between what the hon. Gentleman said and what I say. Lord Jowitt said that 90 per cent. of blackmail cases that came to his attention as Attorney-General were concerned with homosexuality. What we do not know is how many cases never come to court. We can be perfectly certain that for every one that comes to court there must be very many indeed which never see the light of day.

The hon. Member for Wimbledon asked how we would be considered in the eyes of the world if we altered this law. I think that most enlightened people throughout the world would consider that we have taken a step in the direction of decency and that we were showing ourselves to be a more civilised nation than we have been during the last 80 years. As countries such as France and all the other members of N.A.T.O., with one exception, either have abolished this law or never had it, I do not think anybody could suggest that this country would become morally inferior if it changed a law which all civilised people and all leaders of psychiatry throughout the world and all medical bodies say should be changed. In the interests of society as well as of the homosexuals, it is desirable that this criminal aspect of their activities should be abolished.

The question before the House is simple. It is not a question of whether in our judgment, or the judgment of the nation, homosexual acts are wrong and evil, or a sin. We are not asked to approve or disapprove. We are asked to answer the simple question whether it is right that we should continue to brand as criminals the minority of men amongst us who are unfortunate enough to have different sexual impulses and to make them liable to long terms of imprisonment if they indulge these impulses in private. Nobody denies that a homosexual is a homosexual through no fault of his own. He is either born that way through some accident of genes or has become a homosexual through environment in his early life. If anybody denies that, he has the whole weight of the authority of psychiatrists against him.

Homosexuals do not voluntarily give up the warmth and happiness of marriage, the conjugal home and the joy of children. It is not through choice that they are homosexuals. Is it reasonable to expect these people, who have not taken a vow of chastity, as Roman Catholic priests have, to live a life of complete abstinence. Is that considered reasonable or indeed possible? Is not it wholly unjust of the majority to say that this minority who indulge in their sexual habits in a way which is natural to them should be punished? To this minority the sexual habits of the heterosexual are unnatural. To them homosexuality is natural and inevitable. They know nothing else. Is it right for the majority to say that when these people practise sexual habits, for which they have no responsibility and which they do not want to have, they should be subject to the criminal law and the constant threat of blackmail by unscrupulous people?

I should like to refer to a point made by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), who so eloquently moved the Second Reading of the Bill, and that is the new procedure by which chief constables are invited to seek the views of the Director of Public Prosecutions before launching a prosecution against a suspected homosexual. The situation has no doubt improved substantially since that procedure was adopted and the number of prosecutions has decreased. But prosecutions still take place.

Cases have come forward recently where police are making inquiries of people who are alleged to have committed homosexual acts in private may be a long time ago. Although there may not have been actual prosecutions in the last month or two, there were some up to last October. The fear, however, is still there. Every single one of half-a-million and more people knows he might be brought to court and tried, and every one of these is subject to the threats and misery of blackmail.

When this matter was discussed in another place, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord Stonham, was asked whether it was possible that there could be further administrative actions by the Government which short of a change in the law would make it possible for these prosecutions to stop. I have not the noble Lord's words before me, but Lord Stonham said very definitely that the administrative procedure had gone as far as possible and that nothing more could be done without a change in the law. It is that change for which we are now asking.

In the light of the unquestionable facts, the misery and the degradation which homosexuals are forced to undergo, with the constant threat of blackmail and the fear that they could be sent to prison, where they cannot be cured, it is up to those who do not want a change in the law to make out a case and say why a change would be harmful. They cannot seriously contend that the nation's fibre would be weakened if it were no longer a criminal offence to commit homosexual acts in private. As I have already said, right through the proud and virile Victorian era, up to 1866, it was not an offence and there were no prosecutions. Many great countries in the modern world do not have this penalty on their statute books.

The reason why this criminal law has not been changed before is the known fact that it is easy to make criminal law and it is difficult to revoke it. I believe that it would have been revoked a long time ago had it not been for the fact that this question arouses such intense passions. There is deep repugnance among many people over homosexual acts. Their views are held sincerely, but this deep psychological emotion is apt to subordinate all powers of reason and logic. The sponsors of the Bill suggest that the time has come for a change.

Captain W. Elliot

It has been suggested that the opponents of the Bill should say why it is harmful. Clause 1(5) does not apply to the Armed Services, and this would probably cover 600,000 men. I understand that this was accepted by the Wolfenden Committee. Would the right hon. Gentleman give his reasons why the Bill should not apply to the Armed Services?

Mr. Strauss

I am not sure I have understood the point that the hon. and gallant Member raises. If it is a point on Clause 5, it seems to me to be a Committee point.

Captain W. Elliot

Not Clause 5—Clause 1(5).

Mr. Strauss

I am still unable to understand the point and would there-for prefer not to deal with it. I do not think that it is fundamental to the limited purpose of the Bill, but if it is it will be dealt with when the debate is wound up.

It is time that we changed the law, as another place has now agreed to do. It is unworkable, as it is obviously impossible to put half a million to 1 million people in prison. Moreover, the present law does nothing to cure these people who are afflicted. Indeed, in the view of many Church leaders and social workers, it prevents the homosexual from seeking a cure. I would add, with no offence to anybody who takes a different view, that the present persecution of the homosexual is akin to the persecution of other minority groups by the majority. Society today and in the past has often indulged irrationally and to their shame, against minority groups in their midst who are different by habit and custom, but whose behaviour and general contribution to society are as good as those of the majority. It is much akin to the persecution of coloured people, of Jews, Catholics, Huguenots and many others.

We ask, therefore, that a change in the law, which has been advocated by all the leaders of thought who are particularly knowledgeable in this matter—including the bishops, the heads of 14 Oxford colleges and the leaders of the medical and psychiatric professions—should now be made in the interests of society as a whole.

We ask that the law, which puts hundreds of thousands of people in permanent fear of prison, which benefits no one but blackmailers, should now be revoked and that to this end this House should give this Bill a Second Reading.

12.41 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)

I should like first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) on the able and persuasive manner in which he presented his Bill to the House. I go further than that and commend him for his courage, because although I disagree substantially with what he said, I realise that to bring in a Bill of this kind requires an immense amount of personal courage, which I admire very much indeed.

I accept what my hon. Friend said about the need for those of us who oppose the Bill to prove our case. That view was reinforced by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). I propose to try to prove the case against the Bill. What I want to avoid, and has so far been avoided, is the introduction of a highly emotional content to the debate. I wish to try to discuss the matter dispassionately, although with compassion, but with a sense of realism.

During the past six or seven years, the House and the country have been subjected to a veritable blast of propaganda by the Homosexual Law Reform Society and those who support it. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, a lot of it was nonsense. The House, whilst being careful to look at this issue with compassion and even with liberality, ought also to be careful to ensure that it is not misled by propaganda of a wildly distorted kind. Neither must the House be unmindful of the nature of homosexuals themselves.

I do not want the House to accept what I say. I simply want the House to accept what was said by Richard Hauser, who was appointed by the Home Office to conduct an investigation into homosexuality. Richard Hauser has done a lot to help homosexuals and he says that he knows no minority—he is one of a minority himself; he is a Jew—among whom self-pity and self-righteousness are so rampant. He knows no minority which is so lacking a sense of values outside its own circle, no minority which is so bereft of loyalty to its country.

In looking at this issue, we have to bear in mind the essential nature of homosexuality and of homosexuals.

Lord Balniel (Hertford)

I recognise the point that my hon. Friend is making, but which other minority in the country is branded as being criminals?

Mr. Shepherd

There are minorities that are branded as being criminals, but I do not propose to deal with this aspect until later in my speech.

The Bill aims at legalising buggery between two consenting adult males in private. That is what we are being asked to do today. Let us be very clear about this. We are being asked to say that it shall no longer be a criminal offence. We are asked to say piously that we do not think that it is a good thing, but we are asked to say that the criminal sanction should be removed from this sphere of private action.

I recognise fully that those of us who oppose the Bill have to show that in making a private action subject to criminal sanction there must be something about that private action which is damaging to either the individual or society, or both. I hope shortly to deal with that aspect. First, however, in view of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and the speech of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, I ought to say something about the nature of homosexuality. I say what I now come to say with a great deal of deference, because not a lot is known about homosexuality and I fear that if we spend a great deal of time and money on it, we shall not know a great deal more.

I regarded the right hon. Member for Vauxhall as incredibly foolhardy when he recommended us to the views of psychiatrists. I say without any brash-ness that this is a field from which I would recoil. Although both psychiatrists who are Members of this House oppose the Bill, they are in a very unusual state in that respect.

It is not easy to determine the nature of homosexuality, but let me say a few words which might clear some of (he facts in relation to it. First, there is no evidence whatever to show in any single respect that homosexuality is in any way a congenital condition. In fact, contrary to what the right hon. Member for Vauxhall has just said, every authority of note who has studied the question in the light of the available evidence has come to the conclusion that homosexuality is not a congenital condition.

It is perfectly true that each sex has within it the hormones of the other sex. Roughly speaking, one sex has nine parts of its own hormone to one part of the hormone of the opposite sex. It is true that certain tests have shown variations in this relationship, but I warn the House that those tests are wholly inadequate, they are indirect, as far as I know, they have not yet been dealt with by chromatography, the new method which has been recently discovered, and I ask the House to disregard this evidence altogether.

Dr. David Kerr

I am not sure what evidence the hon. Member is referring to or to what it testifies. Speaking with what limited knowledge is available to me as a professional man in this held, I may say that this is one long string of claptrap.

Mr. Shepherd

I would hope that a professional man would have dealt with the matter a little more intelligently and, perhaps, with a little more manners than the hon. Gentleman has dealt with it.

I do not want to detain the House in going into too much detail on the question of hormone considerations in respect of homosexuality because it is a fairly involved subject and, as I have said, the existing methods are not entirely satisfactory. I will, however, amplify my remarks.

It is perfectly true that the testosterone production of one individual as compared with another can vary enormously. For the benefit of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Dr. David Kerr) as a medical man, I will tell him that in a young man between the ages of 19 and, say, 29 it can vary between 17 and 30 milligrammes per day. It is true, therefore, that the basic physical capacity for sex is variable between one individual and another. But we are not concerned with this factor at all. We are concerned here with the direction. I leave this point because I do not wish to get in- volved in this subject, which is a somewhat esoteric one, and it will not necessarily help the House if I do so.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Mr. Shepherd

I cannot give way again. I have a great deal to say.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) has obviously not given way.

Mr. Shepherd

I regret having to appear to be discourteous but I have a good deal to say, and if I continually give way to interruptions I shall detain the House a long time.

Many people have said that the hermaphrodite, the person with peculiar physical conditions, is an example of a congenital condition giving rise to sexual deviation. But I went to Guy's a little while ago and talked to a professor who has done distinguished work. I asked whether he had made any investigations to determine whether hermaphrodites were subject to more variation in the sexual sense than people who were normally constructed. He said that he had made such an investigation in respect of 300 persons and found that there was no variation in the sexual pattern from the normal control with which he made the comparison.

It is clear to me from what I have been told that one can deduce that homosexual conduct is the product of early environmental circumstances or of later environmental circumstances, because we have people turning to homosexual conduct quite late in life. I would take the view, after—despite the contemptuous remark of the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central—some study of the question—that, because of various psychological and environmental conditions, about half the male population of the country is susceptible to response to homosexual stimuli, and that the proper way to look at homosexuality is to regard it not as something separate but as something to which any of us can succumb if the circumstances of our lives or the weakness of our outlook make us susceptible.

The proposer of the Bill said that there were half a million homosexuals in the country—or a million. Sometimes people say a million. I have heard it said that there are two million, and one is inclined to say, "Any advance on two million?" These figures are based very largely on the general result of the Kinsey investigations in the United States. I do not know whether any hon. Members have attempted to examine how Kinsey went about his work—by competitive revelations between colleges, payments to interviewees, and the like. I suggest to hon. Members and the House in general that it would be extremely unwise to place any reliance upon those figures. I certainly would not do so.

Before I come to my main case against the Bill. I should like to deal with one other aspect. Homosexual practices vary considerably. I want to stress one thing because it is critical to our discussion. It is that roughly—it is very rough because we cannot get the exact figures—only about 25 per cent. of homosexuals engage in buggery. It may be slightly more or it may be slightly less, but it is of that rough order. The rest of them engage in other practices which are covered by the legal term "gross indecency". I mention that fact because it is critical to our discussion. One might say that: if only 25 per cent. of homosexuals find it necessary to resort to buggery, cannot that 25 per cent. do what the rest of the 75 per cent. do?

I now turn to the question of homosexuals from another aspect. We use the word "homosexuals" in a very loose sense. There are, in fact, very few homosexuals; but there are a great number of bisexuals. This is another factor critical to our consideration. I shall refer the House—I shall do so on more than one occasion—to figures which have been produced in what I regard as the best survey of homosexual conduct produced anywhere in the world. It is a survey produced by the British Social Biology Council, an organisation which has as its supporters and officers a great many of the officers of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, and, therefore, from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen supporting the Bill it will be above suspicion. It is carried out by Mr. Westwood, a social research worker with whom I had several discussions and who, I think, can be relied upon to be as objective in these matters as anyone can be.

Mr. Westwood saw, as a result of introductions by the Homosexual Law Reform Society and others, 127 homosexuals. Obviously, they were perhaps a slightly selective group. Perhaps they were less anti-social than a great many that he might have seen and contacted. Let us take the results of this from the point of view of homosexuality and bi-sexuality. Mr. Westwood reports that out of his group 42 per cent. had heterosexual experience. Indeed, a considerable number of homosexuals are married. Since I tabled the Amendment against the Bill—which you, Mr. Speaker, have not called—I have received pitiful letters from wives saying how their homes have been broken up as a result of homosexual conduct. There is nothing more disturbing or humiliating to a woman than to have her home broken up in these circumstances.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

Would the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Shepherd

I have a great deal to say. However, I will give way to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Jeger

In these distressing circumstances, is it not even more of an intolerable strain when such a serious thing as blackmail is added to the burden that the wife already has to bear?

Mr. Shepherd

I promise to deal with the question of blackmail in a very short time.

I emphasise that the facts as I have presented them show that the majority of so-called homosexuals are people who have both heterosexual and homosexual experience, that they probably are individuals who, because of early environmental circumstances, or perhaps because of some circumstance of which we have no knowledge, find it extremely difficult to have associations with the opposite sex. The truth is that there is an element of preference; they prefer one form of sexual gratification to another. Some individuals, like Richard Hauser, say that this preference is dictated by selfish considerations in many cases, the attitude being that if one wants to have heterosexual associations it involves a woman, a family life and all the responsibilities that go with it, and that in many cases homosexuals are people who are seeking sexual gratification without responsibility. I have every sympathy with the man who is in a situation where the condition is compulsive, but there are very few such people.

I want to turn now to one or two of the other considerations which those who support the Bill put forward, and I refer first of all to blackmail. If individuals engage in homosexual conduct, they will incur the risk of blackmail. I agree that homosexual activity carries with it, by necessity, the prospect of being blackmailed because, in the main, homosexuals are so undiscriminating in their choice of partners. They pick them up here, there and everywhere. Quite wealthy men get odd boys off the streets or pick them up in bars and clubs to live with them for two or three months at a time, and, if the boy departs with the silver, it is not at all surprising.

Most of the so-called blackmail which is associated with homosexuality arises from what I would describe as the "old boy network". In general, a homosexual will have a great succession of partners during his life. Not all of them have one-night stands, but a great number do. One consequence of having a great number of partners, in many cases gathered from the most sordid parts of society, is to get those partners coming back and saying, "You remember me and what a good time we had. I am very hard up and out of work. Will you let me have £25 or £50?" That kind of blackmail goes on on a large scale and is inescapable.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Under the present law. "]—Under any law. What hon. Gentlemen who support the Bill fail to realise is that it is not the fact that it is a criminal offence which makes it such a source of blackmail. It is because it is something of which society disapproves, and if hon. Gentlemen want to remove entirely the prospect of blackmail, they have veritably to approve of buggery as a social act. Until the House and the country approves of buggery as a social act, it can do nothing to diminish the amount of blackmail that is involved in homosexual conduct. In my opinion, Jowitt's statement was a gross exaggeration of the facts, but we must accept that whilst it continues to be something of which society disapproves it will be the subject of blackmail.

I want now to turn to a second point and deal for a moment with lesbianism, because many hon. Members ask why there should be a law against male homosexual conduct and not against such conduct between females. There are very valid reasons why that should be so. Nearly all the objections which I think that I can rightly bring against homosexual conduct, which I will deal with in a moment, are not applicable to lesbianism. Lesbians do no physical damage by their acts. They are not proselytisers as homosexuals are and, on the whole, they find it agreeable and acceptable to live together for long periods of time. I am not defending lesbianism, but I think that it is at any rate open to far less social objection than is homosexuality.

I said earlier that the duty of those who oppose the Bill is to show that homosexual conduct is not only harmful to the individual but harmful to society as well. Unless we can show that that is so, there is a strong case for the Bill.

In my opinion, homosexual conduct is not only harmful to the individual, but damaging and demoralising to society. At the end of his days, the homosexual finishes up with an extremely miserable life. If by any action we can save a man from pursuing a homosexual path, in my view it is our profound duty to do so.

In what respect is homosexuality damaging to the individual? One of the aspects to which I must refer is the extent to which promiscuity among homosexuals results in the spread of venereal disease. Some time ago, three medical men talked to us upstairs about homosexuality, and they told us that a count was taken in the V.D. centres in three of the main hospitals in London and, as a result of voluntary answers to questions, it was established that something over 10 per cent. of the total cases resulted from homosexual contacts. That is an extremely high percentage, and it arises from the promiscuous nature of the homosexual.

The second point to which I want to refer in that regard is the proselytising of homosexuals. If they were content to remain among themselves, seek no outside partners and not try to persuade others to follow their path, there would be little for which we could condemn them, but it is not so. I have heard some extraordinary nonsense talked by people today who I am sure have not attempted to study homosexuality at all.

Let me again refer the House to West-wood. He asked his 127 cases favourable to the homosexual cause about proselytising. Nineteen per cent. said that they preferred non-homosexuals as their partners and would attempt to persuade non-homosexuals to be their partners. Thirty per cent. said that they preferred non-homosexuals as their partners but that they would have some diffidence about trying to persuade them to be homosexual partners. It means that 49 per cent. of that selective sample prefer to have non-homosexuals as their partners.

I want to remind hon. Members that it they pass the Bill today they will increase the danger to other sections of the community. They will fill the clubs and bars with homosexuals who will believe that in the pursuit of their express desires they now have the right to proselytise where previously they feared the processes of the law.

The suggestion to which I listened today that there is some fixed immutable percentage of homosexuals is sheer, utter and arrant nonsense. It is refutable in historical terms and in terms of one's own personal experience. In the fifth century B.C., in Greece there was a great outburst of what we would call pederast activity, which the Greeks called homosexual activity, somewhat confusingly. In the sixth century B.C., this was virtually unknown and certainly none of the records of the period indicates anything of what took place in the fifth century. If one goes to almost any degenerate period in history, one sees the great upsurge of homosexuality. An example is the state of Germany, and in particular of Berlin, after the First World War. Homosexual conduct is something which can be expanded or contracted according to the state of well-being in a society and according to the attitude which society takes towards it. I urge the House to realise that if hon. Members pass the Bill today, it will inevitably increase the amount of homosexual conduct when, in the broad interests of homosexuals themselves as well as society, they should try to contract it.

Let it not be thought that if this change takes place there will be a beautifully smooth social adjustment on the part of homosexuals. I like to see an occasional British victory and so I follow British grand prix motor racing, and for this purpose I went last year to Amsterdam. On the night before the race, with an architect friend of mine I went to a club in the centre of Amsterdam. Amsterdam is cited to the House as being one of those places where, as a result of a more generous and liberal outlook, there is a new and entirely acceptable pattern.

In the club we were shown to a table where two people were already sitting. One was a rather odd looking man, but the other was even odder because he looked like a retired professional heavyweight but he had on women's clothes, with plenty of furs and rings and powder, and he spoke in a terribly heavy voice. The show consisted, of course, of men impersonating women. It is an odd thing that homosexuals are supposed to dislike women yet they prefer entertainment where there is this impersonation. It always seems remarkable to me.

When a new customer came in and sat a table or so away, he had with him a very young boy. I assure the House that when the young boy came in and sat down with the older man, the whole of the attention of the audience in my immediate vicinity was deflected from the stage to assess the merits of the young boy. This is what happens in that enlightened city of Amsterdam and I say to the House right away that I do not want to see that sort of thing happening in this country.

I turn to what I would say without hesitation was the main reason why I want most strongly to oppose the Bill. It is that it involves inevitably increased danger to the young. I want to say something about the young, because this is an important factor. In Westwood's sample of 127 cases, 103 had had homosexual experiences between the ages of 13 and 16. It is desperately important to avoid these early homosexual experiences, because, although we are told by some psychiatrists and others that people pass through these phases, I believe that it is true that some do not. If we are to save people from homosexual conduct and practices, we want to do as much as we can to stop them from having homosexual associations very early in life.

I want to refer to prosecutions. I think that hon. Members are unaware of the extent to which it is difficult to get prosecutions in respect of offences against young boys, or, for that matter, against young girls. The number of prosecutions for offences against young persons in this country is only that part of the iceberg which shows above the water. No policeman can go into a court in this country with a case against a man for conduct against a young person if there is not some corroboration of the action. Unless a man virtually admits guilt, there is practically no chance of getting a conviction for an offence against a young person.

Last year, I asked a question about the number of offences committed against young persons at the Schoolboys' Exhibition. As a result, very properly, both the police and the organisers made special efforts this year to prevent this from happening and the number of convictions went up from 16 to 31. However, I say at once that the number of offences probably did not go up. It was probably as many as last year. We know to our sorrow in the House, as the result of the action of one of our late Members, how long and persistently offences against young persons can continue without detection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster said that homosexuals did not want to offend against young persons. I admit right away that of course there are homosexuals whose moral sense is such that they would not do so. I readily admit that. But let me tell the House what Westwood found from his favourable selection. Of the homosexuals whom he interviewed, 15 per cent. would have thought that it was possible and desirable to have homosexual relations with boys under 17, and 9 per cent. said that it was not desirable but that they would be tempted to do so, and 21 per cent. said that they would engage in conduct with boys between the ages of 17 and 21. From that result it is quite clear that if we passed the Bill we would inevitably increase the risk to young persons.

I want finally to deal with one matter which to me is of immense importance and which gives me some embarrassment. In the other place we had the spectacle of the Archbishop of Canterbury commending the Bill to the House and the country. The question arises of what value we can place on the Archbishop's judgment. The House can place very little value upon the Archbishops' judgment and I shall give the House a reason, because it ought to know the situation.

Some little time ago a clergyman in my constituency was sent to prison for six months for an offence against a boy. It came to my knowledge that there had been some question of previous conduct. I made inquiries and as a consequence it came to my knowledge that the Church of England re-employs clergymen in parish duties who have been convicted of offences against young persons. This is not true of the Free Church or, I understand, of the Roman Catholic Church. I went to see the Archbishop and he very strongly maintained the right of the Church to do this. This places organisations like the Boy Scouts in very considerable difficulty. I ask this House to consider whether the judgment of a man who says "I will satisfy myself about the desirability of re-employing a man in parish duties who has been convicted of an offence against young children" is one which we ought to adopt? Ought we to be prepared to follow the lead of a man who is prepared to accept this view point?

Mr. St. John-Stevas


Mr. Shepherd

My hon. Friend says "yes". He may think that is an excellent thing to do, but my feeling in this matter is that the interest of the young child is paramount and that it is grossly offensive to Christian conduct that a man who has been found guilty of an offence against a young person should again be put in a privileged position in respect of other children. Yet this is the accepted view of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a man who is capable of this judgment who is asking the House to follow him.

Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)

My hon. Friend will find that a similar practice is followed by practically every youth organisation and by the Ministry of Education. They feel that to say that a man who has been convicted of an offence against a young person should never at any subsequent date return to his job as a clergyman, teacher or youth leader is unnecessarily hard. It is a view that has never been held by any Minister of Education of any political party so far as I know.

Mr. Shepherd

My hon. Friend is entitled to his own moral judgment as I am to mine. He is not entitled to misstate the fact. This is not the view of the youth movements. I can assure my hon. Friend that the Boy Scouts movement finds itself in considerable embarrassment because it does not know whether a Church of England clergyman who seeks to have an association with the movement has or has not been convicted. The movement takes the greatest possible care to see that no one who has been convicted of an offence against young persons or was reasonably suspected of committing such an offence has anything to do with it. Many other organisations take a similar view.

When I left the Archbishop's residence I was shown out by a man who had been a county education officer. He said: "Mr. Shepherd, this is a difficult question, isn't it?" I said: "Yes." He said: "We had it in education. We used to give them another chance." I said: "What happened?" He said: "Two out of three were satisfactory." Two out of three is not satisfactory for me. This is the crunch of the differences between those of us who believe that we have a duty to society, and particularly to the young element in society, and those who believe that we should give free rein to an activity, which, to a great extent is not an inborn or early environmental condition but is the result of association with people who are less worthy than they should be.

I regret that this Bill has been brought forward in this way. Some years ago I commended to the House the rescinding of the Labouchere Amendment. There is a risk in doing this. Only a few weeks ago a doctor in my constituency was imprisoned for gross indecency with his patients. I am not desperately anxious to alter the law so that doctors are not imprisoned for gross indecency towards patients but I would be prepared to accept the repeal of the Labouchere Amendment because I believe that it would remove from homosexuals some of the sense of grievance which they now have and it would leave buggery, whether heterosexual or homosexual, a criminal offence. I have taken a fair amount of the time of the House because I wanted to put forward some of the facts about homosexuality which are difficult to define. These are the reasons why in my opinion the House should reject this Bill.

Let us remember that the veneer of civilisation is incredibly thin. Certainly animal sexual behaviour which is physically directed, as ours is not, is less susceptible of variation. Unless we attempt to preserve standards in our society they will very easily deteriorate. In many respects standards have already deteriorated. Although the homosexual may fall into what appears to be an easy, gay way of life, although there may be a lot of "kicks" in it for him and he may feel himself to be exclusive and to have something superior for a time to the normal way of life, he leads in the end a very disagreeable life. Unless he is a very rich man and can procure a succession of young men for his enjoyment, eventually he does not attract homosexual partners. The essence of homosexual activities is the constant exchange of partners. Finally he lives a terribly miserable life. If we could save men from falling into this way of life we would have performed a worth-while duty. If we do what my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster wishes we shall inevitably bring a large and increasing number of persons, young and old, into homosexual activities. This would be harmful to them and also to society.

1.27 p.m.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Many of us have listened with great interest to the peripatetic adventures of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd), wandering from Amsterdam to the Archbishop of Canterbury. We noticed a common thread in his comments, and that was his quotations from the distinguished research worker, Mr. Gordon Westwood. He quoted Mr. Westwood again and again, and, as he rightly said, Mr. Westwood is as objective in these matters as anyone can be. The penultimate sentence in Mr. West-wood's book says categorically and ambiguously: The present social and legal methods of dealing with the problem are irrational and tend to create more social evils than they remedy. That view of Mr. Westwood's, which is based upon all the facts he had before him, is the view which I hold. It is a fact, on the basis of such statistics as we can glean, that every four hours a baby is born in this land fated to be a homosexual. Whatever the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) has said about the assumptions made by those of us who are supporting this Bill, he did not appear to be challenging the fact that there were so many people who were unfortunately fated thus. It may be, as was suggested by some of those who gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee, that there are three-quarters of a million adult males who are exclusively homosexual. It may be, as the Home Office representative in another place said, that there is a minimum of half a million adult males who are exclusively homosexual. Of one thing we can be certain, that, apart from motorists, these people are the largest class of criminals in the country as the law stands. Of that there can be no doubt.

It is clear from all our knowledge of the sexual drive which we who are heterosexuals have that a drive of equal strength may be ascribed to homosexuals and that millions of criminal acts, as the law stands, are therefore being committed in this country every year. Yet, as the hon. Member for Lancaster, who introduced the Bill, rightly pointed out, there are only 100 convictions a year for acts with which this Bill deals. It therefore follows that the conviction rate is derisory. When we debate crime, as we did recently, we are all concerned with the detection rate. In this case, to talk in terms of a detection rate is immediately to demonstrate the illogicality of a law which cannot be, and is not being, enforced.

Yet, in the present context, after the national debates which have taken place on this issue, a decision to keep the law as it stands is a decision to enforce it; otherwise it is meaningless. Therefore, let those who oppose the Bill face up to the logic which lies behind their opposition. Let those who want to retain the law as it stands face up to the fact that if it could ever be enforced at all it could be done only by the most massive recruitment of police ever envisaged and by the invasion of privacy in a way which all of us would find utterly intolerable.

Nor can we find a way out of the dilemma, as the hon. Member for Cheadle did, by suggesting that if, for example, we introduced a Bill to deal with the Labouchere Amendment that would resolve the matter. On the contrary, we cannot deal with this matter by circumscribing the offence, by distinguishing between buggery and mutual masturbation, which are equally repulsive to most. That would not make the task of the police any easier. Clearly it would make it far more onerous. How could members of the police be expected to tell the precise forms of indecency which take place in private? From where would the evidence come—blackmailers, provocateurs?

There is no logic in suggesting that we can modify the existing law. The issue must be faced: either it must remain, or clearly it must go. But a law which is unenforceable is, to me as a lawyer, utterly bad law. As a result, because it is unenforceable, it can be only random in its application. The prurient curiosity of one chief constable in one area can lead to a series of prosecutions. The diffidence, squeamishness, robustness or common sense of a chief constable in another area can mean that no prosecutions take place. The consequence is that this is a law which by its application is utterly inequitable and unjust. Therefore, it is both unenforceable and unjust.

And the penalties attached to the law are utterly senseless. We all know that to send a homosexual to an overcrowded male prison is as therapeutically useless as incarcerating a sex maniac in a harem. [Laughter.] That is the position, and we all know it; it must be faced. If people say that they are for the retention of this law, they must face the logic of enforcing it. They must face the logic that we would cram the overcrowded prisons until they were choked if every homosexual offending against the law were placed in the cells.

Mr. Shepherd rose

Mr. Abse

No. The hon. Gentleman has had more than his say in the House.

Unenforceable as the law may be, inequitable as it may be in its application, lunatic as it is in its punishments, it has been argued, nevertheless, by the hon. Member for Cheadle that it deters some homosexuals from acting out their homosexual impulses. Such a proposition, by its very nature, cannot be proven. But is it credible? There is certainly, in my view, not a tittle of evidence to suggest that the needs of a homosexual are any less compulsive than the needs of a heterosexual. They differ only in direction, as the hon. Member said. We cannot force celibacy on heterosexual men and women, although attempts to do so are being made in Communist China where, in their megalomaniacal attempts to deal with their population explosion, the Chinese are postponing the age of marriage and attempting to enforce a puritanical spirit on their young people. Maybe they can attempt to do something as crazy, but we know that it cannot be done successfully, and that, if it could be done, it could be done only with the most appalling consequences to the human spirit.

Can we seriously demand, as those who are against the sponsors of the Bill must demand, that lifelong celibacy must be the rôle of the confirmed homosexual? Certainly society has a right to demand discretion on the part of the homosexual, and certainly it has a right to insist that there is no publicly offensive behaviour. That is what the Bill does. It makes it clear that if there is any publicly offensive behaviour the penalties apply. Certainly the Bill does all that it can for the protection of youth. It increases the offences and the penalties.

I should have thought that the hon. Member for Cheadle, who talked so much of his long investigation, would have been fair enough to the House not to attempt to introduce irrelevancies such as to attack those who commit offences against young people. This is abhorrent to everybody. All of us, including the sponsors of the Bill, want to see such people punished more than is provided for in the existing Act. This is a pejorative attempt to introduce prejudice into the debate which, leaving aside the speech of the hon. Member, has been conducted on an objective level.

Have those blessed with the emotional security of a full, heterosexual life the right to demand total and permanent abstinence from those whose terrible fate it is to be homosexuals? I have heard people say this by implication and categorically in the House today. It reminds me of what William Blake said: The only people who condemn passion are those who are deficient in it. People who want the law to make these totally unrealistic demands, which could not be met by saints let alone by sinners, sometimes speak as though homosexuality were a voluntary condition, as though men opted for a way of life which denies them all the fullness and blessings of a family life, leaves them without children, estranged and alienated from the community.

The positive effect of having unenforceable and declaratory law—more brutal in its penalties in this country than anywhere in Western Europe—is not deterrence. I do not accept the argument which has been advanced that because there is certainly a heterosexual or homosexual continuum we can justify this act because we may by social pressures deflect somebody who is an almost overwhelmingly homosexual to heterosexual conduct. Mr. Gordon Westwood, when he dealt with married men who are homosexual, found that out of the sample of 10 of the 127 to which the hon. Member for Cheadle referred, five had been divorced. Only one even claimed that he was still having heterosexual relations with his wife.

Those of us who have had the professional experience of dealing with divorce cases know full well that there is another side of the coin from that which has been presented by the hon. Member for Cheadle: that is, the homosexual man who by social pressures has been forced into marriage and, as a consequence, has found himself in an appalling position. Think, too, of the unfortunate women who, because of these social pressures, have been chosen more as an attempted remedy than as a mate. The hon. Member should be more diffident when he starts pursuing that line of argument.

I believe that the existing law is not a deterrent. Its effect so far as it is positive is to stigmatise hundreds of thousands of our citizens as pariahs and outlaws. It leaves the homosexual feeling that he is almost a selected minority specially chosen for persecution. Within the wider community he sees increasingly permissive attitudes. He sees more permissive attitudes adopted to fornication and adultery. He sees franker and often salacious advertisements on the screen and television. He sees all this around him and it is done largely without protest.

At the same time as these are the general attitudes in this country, in almost all the remainder of Western Europe discreet adult homosexuals have been granted legal immunity. In this country the homosexual lives in a land which persists in the eccentric belief that such behaviour should attract a sentence of life imprisonment.

I do not find it surprising as a result that in such a climate of opinion so many homosexuals lapse into near-paranoia. I do not find it surprising that they behave, as so many do, when they are put outside the community. I do not find it so surprising that they react, as many of them do, in such an anti-social manner. With all their original feelings of guilt, reinforced, as they must be, by our brutal laws, is it surprising that they sometimes protect their self-esteem by absurdly proclaiming their intellectual and artistic superiority to those who are mere heterosexuals? Is it surprising that when they do this, having been forced into this position because the rationalisation is one of the few means by which they can still regard themselves as human beings, they are then accused when making those statements of being proselytisers? I do not find that surprising either.

For me, the worst evil of the existing law, however, is that it continuously rivets publication to the question of the punishment of homosexuals, and it prompts the community to sidestep and to evade the real challenge of preventing little boys from growing up to be adult homosexuals.

What we should be preoccupied with is, if it is possible, how we can reduce the numbers of faulty males who are within our community. How can we see that we have less of these individuals with men's bodies but feminine souls? The very existence of so many homosexuals warns us that little boys do not automatically grow up to be men. Manhood and fatherhood has to be taught, and it mainly has to be taught by example.

The research that is available conclusively shows the particular vulnerability to this fate of those who have jealous and loveless fathers and those with inadequate fathers. Those who are in great danger are those who are fatherless either by death or desertion and who have no father substitute with whom to identify.

We hear a great deal about mother-craft. We hear very little about father-craft. The children of overtime fathers, ambitious executives returning home after their boy is in bed, and perhaps, too, over-busy Members of Parliament, grow up without their really knowing them. I have—it is the only advantage I have over the hon. Member for Lancaster—the good fortune and blessing to be a father with young children. I do not have 19, although I would regard myself as well blessed if I had. We need to recognise that all those fathers of that kind, who are ineffective or vague or who behave in that way, are holding out hostage to fortune.

To become men, boys need fathers with whom they can identify, who are not shadowy, who are not hostile, but with whom they can learn, play and discuss and from whom they can gain proper attention. They need more than fathers who, to avoid involvement, give extra pocket money to their children to send them out to the cinema. They need real fathers.

We in this House this afternoon would be more profitably engaged in preventing homosexuality if we were discussing how we could mobilise our social resources so that we could have, for example, far more male child-care officers and far more male teachers, particularly people who were able to lend a hand to those fatherless children who, with no man about the house to lead them on their way from boyhood, become bewildered and, in the confusion of adolescence, lose their way to manhood.

I believe that the continuance of the existing law fosters the illusion that society, by punishment, is preventing homosexuality. In my view, the passage of the Bill would free society from its morbid preoccupation with punishment and release its energies to the constructive task which faces us of fostering stable family relations within which children can grow up unambiguously and confident of their own adule rôle.

Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)

Before the hon. Member sits down—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

He has already sat down.

1.47 p.m.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

I have to confess to the House that I am not an expert in this subject.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I always thought the hon. Member was.

Sir C. Osborne

Those who have preceded me have been experts, but I am not. I know nothing, or very little, about what is called buggery, but from what I do know about it I hate it and I dislike it. It is time that someone spoke from my point of view as a straightforward, simple square.

I am rather tired of democracy being made safe for the pimps, the prostitutes, the spivs, the pansies and now, the queers. It is high time that we ordinary squares had some public attention and our point of view listened to.

From what I have heard and read previously, this is obviously a difficult, delicate and tragic human problem which has vexed mankind from the beginning of time. We would all agree that there is no easy or obvious solution to this tragic problem. As the debate has shown, very strong and different points of view are held with great sincerity, and I should like to put to hon. Members my point of view against the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley), in introducing the Bill, made three points to which I should like briefly to refer. I will try to be as brief as possible because so many other hon. Members wish to speak. First, my hon. Friend said that the Bill was the same as the one passed in another place. I remind him that this is virtually the same Bill as the one which was rejected in this House—rejected when there was a fuller representation of hon. Members than we have today.

Secondly, my hon. Friend claimed that the bishops were all in favour of it, as were the leaders of religion. That remark prompted me to recall what Job said when tormented by his so-called comforters: Great men are not always wise". I say this to my hon. Friend and his bishop friends. After the last discussion on the Bill which was rejected in this House I went to the three working men's clubs in my constituency to learn what my constituents thought about the subject. I spoke to the dockers from Immingham, the tough, hard men who go to sea from Grimsby and many others, and they were utterly opposed to the proposed changes. They gave me great support. I do not care two hoots what the bishops say from that point of view. I speak on behalf of my constituents.

Thirdly, my hon. Friend said that there are about one million homosexuals in Britain at present, or about 5 per cent. of the population. My fear is that if the Bill becomes law—and this is the basis of my opposition to the Measure—there will be a tendency for that number to increase. One cannot speak with any more certainty, but if it is made easier, if it is legalised, if it is nearly respectable, that figure will go from 5 per cent. higher and higher.

Suppose that over a period of years the figure jumps from 5 per cent. to 50 per cent. Would my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster not acknowledge that there would be a moral degeneracy in the national character? This is what I fear. We are dealing with imponderables. No one can say what will be the result if the Bill is passed. I suggest that we are opening the flood gates. We cannot be certain about the result, but I am fearful that what is regarded today as an unwholesome personal and national weakness will be increased. It is on that ground that I largely base my opposition to the Bill.

I regret that the Home Secretary is not in his place. This is far too grave a social problem to be left to a Private Member's Bill, discussed on a Friday afternoon when most hon. Members are absent. This Measure should be taken over as a Government Bill or dropped altogether. It is too vital to our nation for it to be left as a Private Member's Bill and debated when two-thirds of hon. Members are absent.

Last Sunday I was in Entebbe, but I managed to get hold of a copy of that day's Sunday Observer. I read an extraordinary article by Nora Beloff, which caused me to come home rather sooner than I might have done so that I might at least try to put my point of view to the House on this serious matter. She wrote in that article: Roy Jenkins can expect support from Richard Crossman, Anthony Crosland, George Wigg, Arthur Bottomley, Denis Healey, Anthony Greenwood, Douglas Jay, Douglas Houghton and Barbara Castle, who are all declared reformers". There are very important members of the Government. They are not without influence in the Cabinet. If this is of such vital social importance, as we all agree it is, why have not they induced the Government to bring in a Measure of this kind? If they have tried, why have they failed? This is too important a matter to be dealt with lightly.

I will try to explain why, if they have tried, they have failed. For my part, I am utterly opposed to the Bill, and I do not care what public opinion polls have said recently. I am satisfied, from the discussions I have had, particularly following the last argument we had on the subject, that in my constituency of Louth the vast majority of people are against these proposals. It is on their behalf, as well as my own, that I am voicing my opposition to the Bill.

Nor do I believe that this Parliament has either a mandate or the authority to carry out such an important social Measure. I am certain that none of the three political parties put this so-called reform into the forefront of its election manifesto.

I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster has left the Chamber. It would have been courteous of him to have stayed to listen to my remarks. I listened to all of his. However, I doubt if my hon. Friend or his supporters on both sides of the House made it abundantly clear in their election addresses that they would rather give Government time to, for example, buggery than to steel. This is really the choice that is being made in the use of Government time. This House has no authority from the public to make the immense change proposed in the Bill.

I am grateful to see that the Home Secretary has returned to the Chamber because I have something to say to him. I do not believe that the Government will find Parliamentary time to see this Bill on to the Statute Book, even if we pass it today. The Parliamentary time-table is already overcrowded, so much so that the Government have rightly said, after great consideration, "We are sorry. We cannot carry on with the Steel Bill. We do not have the time".

I do not believe that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite dare go back to his constituents and say, "Although we promised you that we would have steel re-nationalisation—we pledged it—I am afraid that we cannot find the time to do it. However, we have found time to debate and legislate something which we did not mention, buggery". I do not believe that the Prime Minister would allow it.

Several Hon. Members rose

Sir C. Osborne

I will not give way because many hon. Members wish to speak. I am speaking under rather a strain and, in fairness to others, I am curtailing my remarks.

The article to which I referred stated that the Home Secretary—the new, vigorous, reforming Home Secretary—was in favour of this reform. Has the right hon. Gentleman given to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster, who is now absent, any pledge that the Government will give him support or will find time to further the Bill? Does my hon. Friend have a promise from the Prime Minister that time will be found for it? Has the matter been discussed. If not, I reason that we are wasting our time this afternoon—[Interruption.]—from a practical point of view because I am convinced, as I will try to prove, that the Prime Minister is against it. No Prime Minister in modern times, except the two war-time Prime Ministers, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, has so dominated his party and Cabinet as has the present one. Therefore, if the Prime Minister is opposed to the Bill, my hon. Friend has not a cat-in-hell's chance of getting it through—

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

So what?

Sir C. Osborne

So what? It means that we are wasting our time.

The article also states: The Prime Minister is expected once more to stay away—a strategem contributed by some of his colleagues to excessive caution. It is said by those who know him better to represent the typical north-country nonconformist approach. I am trying to argue in a practical way that if, because of the Prime Minister's almost excessive, feline caution, plus his north-country nonconformist conscience, he has stayed away—and, as a result, is sitting on the fence—we will never get Parliamentary time to push this Bill through. Unless Government are favourably inclined to a Private Members' Bill, it can never get on the Statute Book.

Another and even more important point was made in this article. It stated: One comforting thought for the reformers is that in previous confrontations the principal opponents have been the Calvanist Scots, notably the Scottish miners. These are invariably back home on Friday afternoons. I am thinking here of those hon. Members who sit opposite. A vote this afternoon will show where they are—they are in Scotland. It seems to me that to bring this important social Measure before the House on a Friday, in the full knowledge that the good Scottish Socialist Calvanistic M.P.s are away, is cheating.

Why was this debate not held on a weekday, as was the debate on the Bill that was thrown out, when those very men supported the opposition to that Measure? I believe that if on their return to the House the Scottish and north-country Members were to find—and this is where I think the Prime Minister is so wise—that the Labour Party had put buggery in front of steel, there would be a revolt inside the Labour Party—

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it entirely in order to suggest that hon. Members find time for buggery, or put buggery in front of anything else?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Samuel Storey)

I have not heard any such suggestion.

Sir C. Osborne

I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is strange how dim some clever men can be.

Nobody can prove whether or not this is the case, but I believe that if we were to legalise homosexual practice in private between consenting males we would in some way be putting a hallmark on it and taking away some of the disagreeableness that has hitherto been attached to it. And we would tend to increase the number of homosexuals. That is my fundamental belief—that we would tend to increase their number. I regard homosexuality not as something to laugh about, but as a social evil whose growth we should not encourage but, if we can, suppress.

The danger of blackmail would still exist, for homosexuality would still carry a social stigma even if the penalty of the law were taken from it. Therefore, if we were to increase the number of homosexuals we would automatically increase the danger of blackmail. I cannot prove this case, neither can hon. Members prove me wrong, but that is the danger, I fear. I do not want that floodgate to be opened.

I would remind the House that three or four years ago my party, when in power, brought in a Bill relating to betting in the hope that it would somehow regularise betting and drive it off the streets. What has been the result? It has not been what the sponsors of that Bill thought. It has established gambling. It has made certain parts of the West End the most notorious gambling places in the world—a scandal to our country. This is the result of good men trying to do something. In a recent T. V. appearance, one foreign-looking gentleman who represented the wealthy clubs of the West End had the impudence to say to me that gambling is now our seventh biggest industry. If we were so wrong over betting, if the results of that legislation have been so different from what we expected, I fear that the same thing could happen in this case to a smaller degree. I therefore beg of hon. Members to think again before we agree to this Measure, not knowing what the result of the changes may be.

Without being an expert, I cannot accept the argument that homosexuals cannot help themselves; that they are born that way. I just do not accept it. I was brought up a Victorian by a very stern, puritan, Victorian father who taught me that we can do anything if we are sufficiently determined. I do not believe we were born evil or wrong—

Dr. David Kerr

Vote Socialist next time.

Sir C. Osborne

If I were bereft of my senses, I would do that.

This stupid and dangerous argument can be used by every criminal, by everyone who breaks the code right through the calendar. The kleptomaniac says: "I cannot help it. You must not punish me. I cannot help thieving—I was born that way." And so we would destroy our commercial system. The thug, who is increasingly guilty of violence on women and children, says, "I have an irresistible impulse. I cannot help it. You must not punish me. I was born that way, or my father did not treat me properly as a child, and I cannot help it."

Over the years we have struggled with what may be called the no-hanging Measure. What has been the result? We have talk of diminished responsibility until there is no responsibility at all. What has been the result? The result has been an enormous increase—[Interruption.] Oh, yes—in recent months in the number and brutality of the murders that have been committed—

Mr. Paget

Absolute nonsense.

Sir C. Osborne

It is not nonsense.

I believe that organised society is not possible unless we can exercise self-control, and the Government have a duty on behalf of the majority to see that the minority who will not exercise self-control are controlled and, if necessary, are punished for not so doing.

I ask the House to look at this step, and the dangers that I fear are behind it, from the point of view of the general state of the nation and the immense crime wave from which we are at present suffering. Since the war the reformers have had it their way. We have done away with punishment. Instead, we say "Let us have reform. Get the psychiatrists in." Dear heavens, I wish we had kept them out. What has been the result? No punishment, but treatment. And what has been the result of that?

Let me give the House just these three figures. Crimes of violence in 1939 numbered 2,900, and in 1964 they numbered 23,470. Sexual offences before the war numbered 5,000 and in 1964 nearly 20,000. The total number of crimes known to the police jumped from 303,000 to over 1 million. This is the atmosphere in which we are living. Here we are to have something which I fear would increase that crime danger. Since I believe that this would weaken the moral fibre of the nation, both individually and corporately, since I believe it would be a grave danger to boys under 21, I beg the House to reject the Bill.

2.10 p.m.

Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)

I must begin by disclaiming any greater expertise in this subject than my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) possesses, but I shall endeavour to make a few remarks which I hope will make a reasonable appeal to common sense.

It is clear that the issue which, despite anything else that is in the Bill, we shall decide in principle in less than two hours' time is whether or not homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should or should not continue to be a criminal offence. I hope very much that it will be this issue itself which will be put to the vote at 4 o'clock so that we can have a definite expression of the collective view of the House of Commons just as we had an expression of the view by another place some months ago.

All of us who have read the Wolfenden Report will have been impressed, perhaps more than by any other thing, by its humility and its recognition of the gaps that exist at present in human knowledge. But the Wolfenden Report draws the clear distinction—which from some of the speeches to which I have listened seems occasionally in danger of being blurred—between the homosexual condition and its conscious manifestation through overt homosexual practices. Some of those to whom all this is profoundly distasteful confuse the condition with the practices and condemn both.

I had a letter the other day to say that the writer had nothing but contempt for those who call themselves homosexuals". This is a view with which I profoundly disagree, because from all I have heard and seen and read homosexuality is a condition which, as opposed to its practice, is morally no more blameworthy than heterosexuality or an inconvenient condition like claustrophobia, or any other natural propensity which heredity or environment, separately or in conjunction, may have bestowed upon us. I go some way with my hon. Friend the Member for Louth in saying that although the condition is in my view morally blameless, homosexuals cannot give expression to this propensity without incurring moral blame. But they are not the only people similarly inhibited. I think there is none of us who can give full rein to every facet of our personality and remain morally blameless.

The position is that the law punishes some of our moral lapses, but not others. Society recognises some lapses or sins as so serious and so anti-social that it makes them criminal offences—murder, for instance, and many forms of violence, robbery, cheating of various kinds. That is why, among other things, we make it an offence to travel on British Railways without a ticket. But there are other sins which, although causing great unhappiness and misery, for various reasons do not come within the purview of the law.

For instance, provided I am careful, I think I could make my wife's life a misery without a local policeman paying me a call. I might also be able to reduce my children without overstepping the bounds of the law to cowed and terrified shadows of their present selves. If I could get someone to carry me to bed, and could afford it, I could perhaps consume a bottle or two of whisky every night until I was quite unconscious and the law would have nothing at all to say.

There is a much wider and larger field than this where the law remains entirely silent. Apart from divorce, which is exactly what some want, there is no legal penalty for adultery. Provided that one of the participators is not under the age of 16, the law does not forbid fornication. Homosexual behaviour between women is not illegal, but when we come to homosexual practices between males the position is very different. The Wolfenden Report was in full agreement with a great many existing provisions of the law, but the crux of this debate is whether or not in the words of paragraph 52 of the Report: it is proper for the law to concern itself with what a man does in private unless it can be shown to be so contrary to the public good that the law ought to intervene in its function as the guardian of that public good. Unless compelling arguments can be produced for treating them differently, it is wrong for private homosexual acts between men not to be dealt with in exactly similar fashion to those between women and to those between men and women who are not married to each other.

The Wolfenden Committee considered a number of arguments, among them being the fact that the health of society was menaced by these practices and that these practices had a very damaging effect on family life. I submit that the health of society is menaced and family life is damaged by many practices, sexual and otherwise, to which the law pays no heed at all. It is difficult to argue that anything so disrupts family life as the deliberate intention of a man or woman to break up a marriage and a family circle which, but for his or her intervention, would have continued happily. In spite of the sometimes shattering consequences of adultery, which in my opinion are a greater threat to family life than overt homosexuality, adultery is not a criminal offence.

The argument to which the House has given most attention today is the general argument based on the convictions and feelings, which are very sincere, of a large number of people. Dislike of these practices runs very deep and is very widespread. I think that without doubt it is shared by all of us in this House. Many feel, as has been expressed in this debate and in the Press and otherwise outside, that society's tacit approval would be given if Parliament removed the penalties at present attached to offences committed by adults in private. It is suggested, if I might re-coin a phrase, that this would lead to a "saturnalia of licence and vice". It is significant that that picturesque phrase was first used about the experiment of prohibition in America.

My feeling is that a strong aversion will continue towards homosexual practices even among those who, like myself, want to change the law. So long as this aversion exists it is unlikely that relaxation of the law itself will lead to the orgy of homosexuality which some seem to fear.

In any event, this argument does not seem to lead in only one direction. Existing sexual licence and vice between men and women and between women and women might by a similar argument be restrained if a much wider range of private sexual practices were made criminal offences, but very few people urge that the law should be so changed. I have wondered why the thousands of people who no doubt would like to see a curb to adultery, fornication and lesbianism do not in fact clamour for a tightening of the law. I believe that the reason is this. In most of our opinion there must be a wide area of human conduct which is subject to the moral responsibility of the individual.

Every provision of the law seems to me to do something to diminish, even though it does not remove, individual moral responsibility, and the more sins or potential sins that we bring or keep within the ambit of the criminal law the more we diminish the sum total of moral responsibility which an individual bears for his behaviour. I believe, and I think that many hon. Members would share my view, that moral responsibility has already considerably declined, perhaps partly as a result of the multiplicity of laws which affect personal conduct; but I myself should like to strengthen rather than weaken the moral responsibility of the individual for his own actions. Ultimately, in my view, this is what the whole of our life here is about—the choice of each individual, in conditions as free as other considerations allow, between good and evil.

These are the alternatives before us. If it is desired to restrict the area of moral choice, then by all means bring under the law sexual misdemeanours of all kinds, heterosexual as well as homosexual. I myself think that this would be mistaken, for a number of reasons; but at least it would be logical. But if it is right, as I believe, that moral choice should be widened and not narrowed, the only choice which seems to me to commend itself to logic is to visit all kinds of sexual sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual, with the same consequence. If they offend against public decency, if they are against the consent of one of the partners, if one of the partners by reason of age or other natural weakness ought properly to be afforded the protection of the law, then the law must continue to have the power to act.

If none of these conditions applies, I believe it right for male homosexual behaviour to be within the same area of private moral choice and judgment which a man or a woman exercises when he or she commits or refrains from committing adultery or fornication. That is why I should like to see my hon. Friend's Bill given a Second Reading.

2.23 p.m.

Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)

I have followed the argument of the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) very closely. It ranged over a wider scope than the Bill would provide for. If what was envisaged in the argument were to become legislative principle, it would occupy many pages of the Statute Book.

I say straight away that if I had, not one, but 10,000 votes I would cast every one of them against the Bill. There is no possibility of the Bill becoming law, for reasons which we all know. The Bill is cleverly drafted. It gives something away to get a victory; but what it gives away is nothing compared with what society is being asked to accept as the main Clause of the Bill.

The kernel of decision does not rest here in the House of Commons on a question like this, because for over 400 years there has been an opprobrium on this conduct by society and legislation has been formed and amended through the centuries to provide for the proposals which the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) has in mind in his Bill.

I sympathise with those who are sincere—there are many of them—in advocating the principles of the Bill. I expect, for myself and for those who think like me, the same type of sympathy. This is why I object to this intellectual superiority and sophistication on the part of people who think they know better and who look down with snide remarks upon people who have the other point of view. The Bill is signed by people who in the main cannot be described as the horny-handed sons of toil. I speak in no sense of denigration of my cross-Chamber friendships or associations, but the Bill is signed by those who, in my opinion, have never had to lead the life of the ordinary people. The people who matter most are the ordinary people outside, the mums and dads carrying the responsibilities of society and of rearing this country's citizens.

One could argue round the clock in as many ways as one liked for relaxation of the law, but it comes down to this. Parliament is being asked to legislate for sexual maladjustment in the nature of inverts. This is in essence what it is being asked to do. Parliament is being asked to countenance male prostitution, although only a few years ago Parliament came down vigorously against prostitution. It is being asked to countenance the acts of consenting adults behind locked doors, adults either in pairs or in plurals.

I suppose it is a tenable point of view that this is a natural result of society's outlook, because as a society grows more materialistic its disciplines become more lax. The two things run together. This is why homosexuality is more prevalent today than it has been through the centuries. This is why if we take off the checks and the balances of society at this moment we shall ask for trouble; and we shall certainly get it. Hon. Members must ask themselves, as legislators, whether society really wants this. If this question were put as a straight issue outside by any political party I know what the answer would be. I have no doubt that it would be "No".

What about this ridiculous business of the age of consent? Apparently at 20 years and 11 months the act is illegal, because there can be no consent. At 21 years there is consent. Anyone who knows anything about human nature and people; anyone who knows anything about man's behaviour in adultery and fornication—after all, all men are human; anyone who knows anything about the greatest love stories in the history of the world, knows that men with the advancement of years have always sought where possible younger partners—females to heterosexuals. The same thing applies to homosexuals. It is the sensation of experience that drives them.

The House of Commons is charged with the responsibility of protecting and guarding the young. I do not accept the argument that this is a congenital con- dition. It is not. I prefer the point of view advanced by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) that this is mainly an environmental condition which is brought about because of happenings or circumstances in a person's life, sometimes not due to his own doings. Some of it is to be regretted.

I am fortified in this view by the debate in another place on 24th May of last year, from which it appears that a former Home Secretary asked the Prison Commissioners to carry out a medical and psychiatric examination on 96 homosexuals in prison. According to the report received,

"only 15 out of the 96 were genuine inverts. The remaining 81 carried out their homosexual practices for other reasons, such as boredom with women, desire for sensation and for money."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th May, 1965; Vol. 266, c. 656.]

It goes on to say that neither the Bill nor any other piece of legislation can distinguish between the genuine 15 and the 81 who were simply not standing up to wickedness. Is it our proposal to make it more simple? Is that what we are being asked to do? If we are, we are heading for very deep waters. I am not concerned with what happens on the Continent. I know what happens on the Continent. But once we start, by legislation, to debase our minimum standards in a period of a lush, rich civilisation of material greed and advancement, we are really heading for trouble.

I have no doubt that the verdict of the people, if put to the test in a poll on a question like this, would be more in favour of the majority of opinion on the back benches of both sides of the House than it would be in favour of the opinion of those people who advocate a change in the law, no matter how genuine they are—and I accept their genuineness. But this Bill, framed as it is, will not get the approval of this House this afternoon. I sincerely hope that it does not. This does not mean that people who are of my opinion are unmindful of the genuine difficulties of the genuine inverts. We are. I am just as sympathetic. We occasionally get these cases in our constituencies. But I believe, on balance, that to take off the sanctions is asking society to accept a condition which society does not want.

I do not intend to speak long because I know that On a question of this kind many hon. Members wish to express their opinions. I only know, coming from the class of society that I do, that our experience of sexual life was gained in a way which is still applicable to about 99 per cent. of the population—at the local cinema, the ballroom, taking an occasional girl home. That is the way that most of us learned. It is the natural way, and most of us enjoyed it. Those who do not find it enjoyable and are genuinely afflicted have my sympathy. Let not Parliament judge this issue. It hits at the very roots of our society.

2.33 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

I am sure we all congratulate the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) on his notable contribution to the debate. I only hope that he will not look down on those of us who have not had his advantages in life and who are, therefore, perhaps at a disadvantage in speaking on this Bill.

I should also like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) on the way in which he introduced this Bill. We listened this morning to a speech of a persuasiveness, of an intellectual distinction, of a courage and moral grandeur that it is a rare privilege in this House to hear. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) who has done so much for this particular reform.

I wish I could congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) who spoke earlier. Certainly he was sincere, but the dogmatism with which he spoke on this subject, a subject where medical and expert knowledge is limited and what there is is so conflicting, was not very helpful. Some of his facts struck me as dubious, and one I know to be wrong when he stated that the Homosexual Law Reform Society had provided Mr. Westwood with his sample. This was impossible, for the simple reason that the Homosexual Law Reform Society was not in existence at the time when that sample was provided. It came from the Social Biology Council. If the other facts in his speech are as ill-founded as that one, then there is grave doubt about its value in this debate.

I must also disagree with my hon. Friend strongly in his most unjustified attack upon the Primate. He sought to discredit the Primate's views on this subject by indicating that the Primate was guilty of a breach of duty in appointing to parochial duties a priest who had been guilty of a sexual offence. I should have thought that the Primate was well within his rights and duties in taking such a course. Surely, if there is a sin or even a crime, and a man has made amends and the Primate's judgment is that that man can once again be charged with parochial duties, the Primate is not only right to give him a cure but he is under a Christian duty so to do.

I want to address myself to the moral issue which lies at the heart of this debate, and I wish to address my remarks to those, of whom there must be some in this House, who have come here not with their minds made up but in order to listen to the argument. Nobody would dream of enacting a law penalising homosexuality today. If we did not have it already, no one would support it. The disadvantages and the inequity are too apparent. But I believe there are many who, while they would subscribe to that view, are unhappy at the thought of repealing the law because they fear—it is a perfectly reasonable fear—that at this time when moral standards in general are low, by repealing this law we shall lower them even further and that we will further weaken public morality by appearing to give approval to immorality. I do not share that view, although I appreciate it.

It has been said that we had a law on this subject for 400 years. That is not a long period in our island story. If we go back beyond that, we will find a state of affairs where these offences were indeed punished but by ecclesiastical courts, as sins and not as crimes. So in repealing this law, or endeavouring to do so, we are going back to an older tradition. I do not think the present law does anything for morality A law that cannot be effectively enforced, which can only be capriciously and inequitably enforced can only weaken and not strengthen morality.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

It that argument had any validity it would lead to the conclusion that offences against the young should be made legal because they are scarcely ever detected.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would not agree with that. I think there is no reason why offences against the young should not be detected. There are the parents, who see that the rights of children are protected. The existing law imposes an impossibly high standard, as the mover of the Bill has pointed out. Celibacy is a high ideal; I certainly subscribe to that. But the fact is that few are capable of it. It requires a degree of religious commitment which is quite rare. We know that a sizeable proportion of the population, through no fault of their own, are attracted sexually only to members of their own sex. This is not a quesion of diabolical lust. It is a question of misplaced affections and misplaced sexual drives. Some are capable of a degree of self-control, some are capable of a degree of self-sacrifice and sublimation, but most people in this situation are not. This is a fact which we have to face, and in this situation the law must be practical. It is not the function of the law to enforce every virtue or to forbid every vice.

Our rulers and law-givers are not spiritual directors. They are the guardians of the common good. They are the keepers of the peace. The great criticism of the present law is that its extremity drives the whole issue underground and by its blanket condemnation of every form of homosexuality creates precisely those underworld conditions to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle drew attention.

One very strong argument for reforming the law is that the law by limiting itself to practical objectives would provide homosexuals with some standards of behaviour which there was some prospect of their keeping. By condemning and punishing effectively only the corruption of minors, the exploitation of the weak, and those who exploit positions of trust, the law, far from weakening public morality, would strengthen it by this self-limitation.

My third point is that by making a change in the law one does not give moral approval to the homosexual. We are simply saying that criminal sanctions are inappropriate to deal with this subject. We are saying that it must be treated as adultery, fornication, and other sexual sins are treated. After all, the law does not recognise any rights or duties arising from an adulterous relationship. It would be the same if the law was changed in the sense proposed by the Bill. It would create no status of homosexuality, and condemnation by the common law of homosexuality as immoral would continue.

If we change the law in moral matters it must be clear that the change is backed by public opinion. I believe that it was Cardinal Newman who said that public opinion must give the law to law, and in the past it is true that public opinion has not approved of a change in the law. I believe that that situation has altered. We know that the evidence is overwhelming that informed opinion on this subject is in favour of a change. I have certainly noticed a change in people's attitude from my personal experience, and the only correspondence that I have had on this subject is from people asking me to support this Bill. Then we have the evidence of the National Opinion poll published last October which showed that 63 per cent. of the people asked wanted a change in the law. A poll is not a final answer to a question of this nature but it is an important piece of statistical evidence which we should take into account.

We are a Christian country. Unlike the Irish, we do not spend our time running to church, because we are not a church-going people particularly, but we are a religious people and the fact that leaders of the Churches, who after all are the guardians of our morality, the Anglicans, the Roman Catholics, the Methodists, have all counselled a change in the law, must surely weigh with us. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) that in this country, fortunately, ecclesiastical opinion, however, unanimous, does not finally dispose of a moral issue. Conscience remains king, and rightly so, particularly in this House. But surely we must take into account the attitude of the official leaders of the Churches on this point, particularly when they are so unanimous. This seems to be a persuasive piece of evidence in helping us to make up our minds on this issue, the more so as they have been advised in this matter by boards and committees made up of laymen and professional opinion, all highly qualified.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, South)

May I point out that the Presbyterian Church, and in particular the Church of Scotland, debated this on the Wolfenden Report and rejected any idea of a change?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I would accept that as being so. I am not saying that every Church has agreed on this, but the majority of official Christian opinion is in favour of a change in the law.

Let us remember also two further points on this moral issue. While we are right to condemn homosexuality as being morally wrong in the objective sense, we must realise, first of all, that subjectively the moral guilt in the homosexual is much reduced, and we should take that into account.

We should also take into account the causes of homosexuality. I believe that it is St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans who suggests that sexual perversions are a result of a wider immorality in society. This is a conclusion which has been strikingly confirmed by modern research which shows that in many cases where there is a homosexual child there is also a history of parental breakdown and marriage break-up and inadequacy of home background. Therefore, we should beware of making homosexual scapegoats for our own delinquencies.

There is another argument for a change in the law which has a powerful appeal. First, by passing the Bill we would end the public obsession with this issue which is not good for the country or for public morality. I find speeches such as that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle, recounting experiences in Amsterdam and elsewhere, however necessary they may be, acutely distasteful.

Mr. Shepherd

So was the experience.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Surely also the very fact that we are in a crime wave is an additional reason for changing the law, because the police should not be concerned with these peripheral moral matters but concerned exclusively with catching the professional criminal. A powerful reason for reforming the law is precisely that it would clear away an irrelevancy which causes many people to withhold support from the criminal law at a time when that is in grave need of the support of a united public opinion.

I have endeavoured to outline my reasons for believing that there is no inconsistency between a committed con- cern for public morality and support of this Bill. My last consideration, and it is slightly different, is that the effect of the present law is to increase human suffering. We all know of friends or acquaintances who have contributed to the community, who have had useful lives destroyed by the capricious incidence of the present law. We cannot avoid suffering in what the theologians would describe as "this vale of tears" but what we can do is to so rationally order our laws that the incidence of human suffering is reduced as much as possible. It is because this Bill in a small way reduces the incidence of human suffering that it has my support today.

2.49 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)

This is a subject which arouses strong and sometimes irrational feelings both in the House and outside. Bearing this in mind, I think that it can be said that we have had a very reasonable debate, at least a very good-tempered debate, and a debate, I believe, which has been illuminated by some speeches of great force and distinction.

I must begin by explaining the Government's attitude to this Measure. We regard this as pre-eminently a subject for decision by a free vote of the House according to the individual consciences and views of hon. Members in all parts of the House, and that free vote will apply to individual Members of the Government as much as to anyone else. But the attitude of the Government as such towards the Bill in this House, as it was in another place, is one of neutrality. Should the Bill pass its Second Reading, however, and should further drafting assistance be necessary, either before the Committee stage or between Committee and Report, we should be glad to give it.

Having expressed that view on behalf of the Government, it follows that everything which I say from here forward will be said on my own behalf and on my own responsibility, although in preparing what I shall say I have had the advantage of the advice and information which is the privilege of anyone who occupies the office of Home Secretary.

Mr. Iremonger

This is a point of extreme importance to the House. Would the Home Secretary explain exactly what is his personal position in this matter? As Home Secretary and a leading member of the Government, to what extent does he presume to speak in a sense which may not be in accordance with Government policy?

Mr. Jenkins

Surely that intervention was not necessary. I made it quite clear that the attitude of the Government is one of neutrality and I made it quite clear that there would be a free vote for members of the Government as for other hon. Members, and, having made this clear—I do not think that I could have made it clearer—I am proceeding to give certain views which I am entitled to hold as much as any other hon. Member.

In order that there should be no misunderstanding, from the beginning I would not wish to conceal from the House that should this Motion be divided upon, I propose to go into the Lobby in support of the Bill and so, I understand, by an entirely individual process of decision, would the three other Home Office Ministers who sit in this House.

Perhaps I may make an attempt to deal with what appear to me to be some misunderstandings about the basic problem of homosexuality. Homosexuality has existed in all societies at all periods of history and in all cultures. It has sometimes been condemned, it has sometimes been condoned, and at times it has even been encouraged, but it has never been suppressed. From country to country at the present time, the laws relating to homosexuality vary considerably, although I believe that in Western Europe only the Federal Republic of Germany has a provision similar to our own.

There is no evidence either from history or geography that the incidence of homosexuality varies with the laws against homosexuality. It is more deep-seated a problem than that. There is certainly no evidence, as far as I am aware, that the relaxation of the law which took place in Austria, for example, in 1960, or in Sweden in 1942, led to any increase in the practice of homosexuality. Certainly no attempt has been made during the debate to produce any evidence to support such a proposition.

The extent of the problem in this and in other countries is without doubt con- siderable. No one can know exactly what is the incidence, but probably the best estimates which have been made vary between suggesting that one male in 20 and one male in 40 is in some sense an active homosexual. The spread is much more even than is sometimes imagined. It is not concentrated in any particular social classes or occupational groups but goes fairly evenly throughout the community. It follows from this incidence and spread that the majority of homosexuals are not exhibitionist freaks—although there are some of these, as there are some among heterosexuals—but ordinary citizens who do normal jobs, in many cases usefully and unobtrusively, in some cases with great distinction.

Homosexual inclinations are not often a matter of choice for the individual. Occasionally they may be, but this is the exception rather than the rule. In general it is, I am convinced, an involuntary deviation. But according to most medical opinion—I know that there are some differences about this—and certainly according to the Wolfenden Committee, it is not a disease in a sense of being, in the majority of cases, subject to medical treatment. It is more in the nature of a disability than a disease and, of course, it is a grave disability for the individual. It leads to a great deal of loneliness and unhappiness and to a heavy weight of guilt and shame. It greatly reduces the chance of the individual finding a stable and lasting emotional relationship.

The question which we have to answer today is whether, in addition, the disability, provided it involves no corruption or minors and no public indecency, should remain subject to the rigours of the criminal law. Do we serve any useful and proper public purpose by keeping it so?

The Wolfenden Committee distinguished three possible main reasons why some people might answer "Yes" to this question. The first was that homosexual behaviour might be held to menace the health of society. The second was that it might have damaging effects upon family life. The third was that a man who indulges in homosexual practices with another man might turn to indulging in them with boys.

The first proposition, that homosexual behaviour menaces the health of society, is necessarily, I think the House is bound to agree, a somewhat vague concept. The Wolfenden Committee said that it heard no evidence to support this view. On the second point, that such behaviour might have a damaging effect upon family life, the Committee found that it might well do that but so also, it must be added, can female homosexuality and so, indeed, do some forms of heterosexual conduct. It still remains to be proved that the harm is diminished by singling out this particular form of conduct for punishment by the criminal law while other forms of conduct equally damaging to family life are not so treated.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)

Would the right hon. Gentleman explain why those who favour the Bill consider that what is right for civilians is wrong for soldiers and sailors?

Mr. Jenkins

No, because what is proposed ought perhaps to be put to those who are sponsoring the Bill and those who will be replying to the debate on its behalf. But it is reasonable to put forward a particular proposition so far as the community as a whole is concerned and to leave the question of particular military or naval discipline to be dealt with when we debate various matters of military or naval discipline.

On the third point—that conduct with other adults might lead on to similar conduct with boys—the Committee was authoritatively informed by a large number of witnesses that this seldom happens. Indeed, the Committee held that the relaxation of the law relating to adults might well give more, and not less, protection to minors. It would, indeed, be difficult to see why a relaxation of the law relating to one category of offence, accompanied by a stiffening of the penalties relating to the other category of offence, that with minors, about which we are all concerned, could possibly lead people to switch from the one which had become legal to the other which remained illegal and against which, indeed, the penalties had been increased. Therefore, these grounds, I think it may be held, do not add up to a justification of the present law.

But, as I understand it, listening to the debate and other discussions, some hon. Members take the view that, although they would not wish to enact the present law if we were starting afresh, they none the less believe that to repeal it at the present time would give a dangerous signal of tolerance to homosexuals. Some hon. Members—I remember the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black)—talked about reversing 400 years of history in this respect—although I think some parts of the law have a rather more recent origin that 400 years ago. In a sense, I see the basis of this argument, but I none the less regard it as a dangerous argument, and the danger of the argument is greater than the danger of a possible signal of tolerance. It would make us what I think the whole House, or nearly the whole House, would regard as to a quite unacceptable extent the prisoners of the mistakes of the past, and would provide possible excuses for keeping an almost infinite number of bad laws upon the Statute Book because they had once been put there. Nor do I think that this argument, if accepted, is likely to be a short-term argument, for those who use it in the present are, I believe, likely to extend it almost indefinitely into the future.

Sir C. Black

The right hon. Gentleman referred to what I said. I am sure that it was inadvertence, but to some extent in what he said he has not fully represented what I said. I certainly said that the relaxation of a law which has stood for 400 years would cause the conclusion to be drawn which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but I did not say, and I do not hold, that the law was a mistake in the first instance. I must make that point clear.

Mr. Jenkins

I am glad to know how the hon. Gentleman would have voted had he been in the House in 1565. But I do not think that it invalidates the general point which I was endeavouring to make that there are—if not the hon. Member himself—some hon. Members who take the view that they would not make the law afresh but, equally, they would not change it at the present time.

I turn now to the question of whether, if it is now thought desirable that the law should be changed, this Bill does it in a reasonable and acceptable way.

Mr. Shepherd

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jenkins

No; I must get on.

Broadly, I believe that the Bill does so. It sticks very closely to the Wolfenden recommendations, and is identical to the Bill passed through all its stages in the other place last Session.

Compromises—compromise changes in the law—have sometimes been suggested. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) mentioned one. I should like to congratulate him both on his courage in introducing this Measure and on the distinction of the speech which he made to the House in moving it. He mentioned one possible compromise—he did not advocate it; he mentioned it without advocating it, I hasten to say—that we should confine ourselves to a simple repeal of the Labouchere Amendment. That would produce a situation in which one form of homosexual conduct in private between adults might attract life imprisonment while another between the same people in the same circumstances, and perhaps equally repugnant to much opinion, would be no offence at all. I think that that halfway house would have no basis either in logic or in morals. If the House wishes to change the law, it should face the issue squarely and not seek refuge in any smudged compromise.

The other halfway house which has sometimes been suggested is that all homosexual acts should be declared unlawful but that some of them should not be punishable. That seems to me to be even less defensible in logic or morals, apart from making a deliberate nonsense of our Statute law.

Therefore, if the House wishes to see the law reformed, it should regard the Bill as about as reasonable an approach to the matter as we could hope to obtain. It keeps the full penalties for any offence touching the curruption of youth, and in one important respect it increases the maximum penalty from two years to five years.

There will be a number of Committee points, should the Bill be passed, relating particularly, perhaps, to Clause 6, where we have to deal with the difficult issue of state offences, bearing in mind the particular importance of getting rid so far as possible of the blackmail problem.

It is now nearly six years since a Home Secretary was last called upon to speak to the House on this issue, and I stress again that I have spoken today in a personal capacity. Lord Butler, one of the most distinguished of my predecessors, then advised the House with a mixture of sympathy and caution. He certainly did not slam the door against a change in the law. He said that we needed more time, more time for research, and more time for educating public opinion. Well, we have had more time. Just as Lord Butler believed that public opinion would continue to be educated, so I believe that to a substantial extent it has now been educated.

It is for the House to decide, but I do not think that we shall gain by further postponement, that an easier time for decision will arise, or that Parliament will get a better Bill on which to face this difficult issue.

3.8 p.m.

Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)

A number of those who have advanced reasons for supporting the Bill have done so in the name of logic. Perhaps that word has been used more frequently than any other in their cause. But I do not think that those who claim logic to be solely on their side can argue in seeking sympathy for what is called a persecuted minority, as did the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), and in the same breath speak of the derisory number of convictions. To argue that we should pass a Bill where something shall be illegal at the age of 20 and legal at the age of 21 does not seem to be a very logical proposition to put before the House.

It is said, further, that it is illogical to keep a bad law on the Statute Book. It is said to be bad because it cannot be enforced. Yet, outside that limited number of 100 convictions I am certain that there must be many who sought to be convicted for offences against the young which are never detected at all. So, whatever may be the merits of the arguments of those who differ from me, I hope that we shall not hear too much about logic as being one which is only available to them.

I dissent from the Bill for a number of detailed reasons which I hope to advance very shortly, but, above all, because I am certain that however much logic may be claimed and however much particular reasons may be advanced for the change as proposed, the public will interpret this step, if the Bill is passed, as condoning homosexual offences. It will be seen as another relaxation of the conventional code and a further step along the road of moral laxity. Those who argue that this is not the case and that it will be understood surely lose much of their argument when they decline to apply it also in the Services. If it is good for civilians and reasonable and fair and sensible for civilians, why not for the Services? I shall have more to say about that in a moment, but it is because it is not and the public would regard it as a stab at the morale of the Services that it is not advanced in that direction, too.

Mr. Scholefield Alien rose

Sir S. Summers

I shall not give way, because I know that others want to speak and I do not want to condense, below the time allotted, what I have to say.

The Wolfenden Report went through a number of arguments in favour of retaining the law as it is and a number of arguments for changing it. It finally came down with an argument which it regarded as crucial—namely, the freedom of choice which society ought to give in matters of private morality. This overriding consideration is not given to incest. This over-riding consideration, that one can do what one likes in private and it is not the business of other people in the eyes of the law, does not apply to cruelty. I cannot accept the proposition that an act which is illegal if watched should be legal if it is not.

Great play is made—and it is understandable why great play is made—with the distinctive treatments in this Bill of consenting adult and the homosexual act between the adults and the boy. Hon. Members should notice the frequency with which the word "boy" is used and yet the Bill describes the young person as anyone under 21. Arguments are advanced and have been advanced today why 21 should be chosen, but anyone reading the Wolfenden Report will see quite clearly that it was a very near thing against recommending the age of 18.

Moreover, it is pointed out that the age of consent for the female is 16 and we are being asked here to accept that the age of consent for males should be 21, and we are asked to believe that that will last for a long time. I do not believe that it will last for a long time if the Bill is passed. Arguments will be advanced saying that if people are fit to vote at 18—and this is being advanced in another context—they should not be made the subject of a criminal offence at 20 when at only 21 it will be all right.

It has been argued in another place that one of the ways in which the young will be protected is if consent is given to adults to practise homosexual acts. This must presuppose a kind of diversion in favour of protecting the young, and yet in another breath we are told that there is no preference for the young. I do not accept that the Bill in itself would provide any protection.

We have heard much of the argument about eliminating blackmail. So long as society regards homosexual acts with a stigma and so long as they are upheld as a sin, so long will the blackmailer have his opportunity. It is said that the Bill would enable and encourage more people to go to the police, because they would not fear that by so doing they themselves would become the victims of a prosecution. The only justification for such an argument is that their names should be suppressed in the case brought against a blackmailer. If their names are not suppressed, society, their friends and relations will know that they are the source of the complaint which, although legal if the Bill is passed, will bring them into contempt.

It is said that it is not fair to punish those who cannot help what they do. This does not apply to the kleptomaniac or to those who, in the nature that God gave them, are prone to more cruelty than are others. It is a very dangerous thing to argue that such people should be free from punishment. I have heard it said "What is the good of holding out? Public opinion is changing all the time and sooner or later this will become law. Why waste time holding things up?" Was there ever a more defeatist attitude? Where would this country have been in 1940 if people had said, "What is the good of standing up for a cause which has self-evidently gone?"

Very little has been said about the effect of the Bill upon the Services. This is no doubt because the Services are to be left out. What is to be the position of a Service man consenting to a homosexual act in private with a civilian? The civilian is to be innocent of any crime, the Service man will be guilty of a crime that is still to remain on the Statute Book in the name of morale in the Services. Yet the civilian may have enticed the Service man to participate in that act. Is it really to be contemplated that the position can last whereby a civilian who induces what is an illegal act in the Services shall be treated as innocent under the law whereas the reluctant partner, a Service man is to be punished?

The only part of the argument put forward in favour of this Bill which I have found difficult to contest is the extent to which there is inevitably discrimination—which is likely to continue as long as the law lasts—as to whether a prosecution shall be made. It is an unsatisfactory feature of a law that members of the police should have it within their power to discriminate between the launching of one prosecution and the withholding of another. Nothing is perfect and that very small defect in the situation is as nothing compared with the changes that may follow if this Bill is passed. A study of the Wolfenden Report reveals two very important things. One is dealt with in paragraph 20, in which the Committee makes it clear that it did not regard it as part of its job to take account of what is here proposed—a change in the existing law. It saw its duty as being to state what would be a sensible law if one started afresh. It did not pronounce judgment or take account of the inevitable difference between treating the law as we find it and asking us to change it and start afresh with a new law in entirely new circumstances.

The minority report drew attention to the fact that the majority on the Committee was in stark contrast with the majority views of the witnesses whereas that majority was very much smaller than that in the Committee making the recommendation.

I have no doubt that this will be seen as another relaxation at a time when relaxations, right across the board, are, in my judgment, all too frequent. It is a mistake to assume that the arguments for and against the Bill can be treated in isolation of the other changes in the out- look on moral standards going on at present. Today, sexual experience before marriage is widely accepted and practised by society. Universities regard fornication by students as no concern of theirs. Discipline in schools reinforced by the cane is frequently treated as assault. Less and less account is taken of marriage vows. The theme is that nobody is really to blame: it is his constitution, or his upbringing or his environment; or he is being provoked, and he needs treatment, not punishment.

In asking the House to reject the Bill, I am not seeking to put forward punishment as an end in itself. But, in my view, it reinforces the upholding of the conventional code by society. Today, to ask for self-discipline is frequently to ask for too much. Everything is challenged and nothing is secure. The watchword is "Why not?" I regard the Bill as inopportune, misconceived and dangerous, and I hope that the House will reject it.

3.21 p.m.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

We have listened to a speech by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers) which was full of dogmatic statements. Wide statements of what is or is not supported by evidence, are not very impressive.

Many years ago a Departmental Committee was appointed. It took evidence for three years. Its members considered in detail and over all those years the very arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Aylesbury. It was a distinguished body, and it gave its time and thought to this problem for what some of us thought was too long. But it certainly did its job very thoroughly. Sir John Wolfenden gave his time. Mr. Justice Diplock was a judge of great experience who had had experience of this kind of crime in the criminal courts. Sir Hugh Linstead was a member of the party of the hon. Member for Aylesbury. There was a member of the Bar from this side of the House.

Those people listened day after day and week after week to the arguments which have been advanced today. They were charged with the duty of considering the law as it then was, whether there was any need to change it and whether it would be dangerous or injurious to public health and well-being if changes such as have been put forward by the reformers were made. With one exception they came to the unanimous conclusion that the law should be changed, that there was no evidence of substance to support the arguments of the hon. Member for Aylesbury—with one exception.

Sir S. Summers

Not unanimous.

Mr. Allen

With one exception; I have said that twice already.

Since that time, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Moral Welfare Council of the Anglican Church have considered this matter. The Methodist Church has given its support. I think that the only Church which has not given its support is the Scottish Presbyterian Church, and I understand from inquiries made that the opinion was dominated by the elders of the Church rather than the younger members of it. When one discusses these problems with the young today—the young who are too hurriedly condemned—they are more tolerant than the aged. The younger are more broadminded than they were in my day and I have every confidence that as time goes on, even if we are resisted by the opposition today, this change in the law will be brought into effect because it is humane and right and is supported by scientific and knowledgeable opinion.

The Bill proposes to repeal the existing law relating to buggery. When the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) tells us that this law has existed for 400 years, it is well to remind ourselves that the crime, which has worried most members of the legal profession and those which have studied the matter, is governed by a law which crept in by what has been called the Labouchere Amendment to a Bill in 1885.

That Bill had passed its Second Reading without any such provision. Late one night, Mr. Labouchere proposed an Amendment which established a new homosexual crime, gross indecency, whether committed in public or in private, between adults, whether consenting or not. The subsection was passed without comment or speech and no one seemed to know that this was happening. As so often happens, I regret to say, things of this kind creep into Bills, but in some instances they are corrected at the other end of the corridor. In that case, however, this new offence went into the Bill and there it remained.

The book written by a former hon. Member for one of the Belfast constituencies, Mr. Montgomery Hyde, contains an introduction by one of the greatest criminal judges we have ever had, a man who, I suppose, tried more of these offences than almost anyone else. I refer to Sir Travers Humphreys.

In the introduction to the book written by the former hon. Member, Mr. Montgomery Hyde, Q.C., on the Oscar Wilde case, Sir Travers Humphreys refers not only to his own opinion, which was in favour of repealing the law, but to the fact that as soon as that law was promulgated and it was known and cases began to come before the courts, it was termed the blackmailer's charter. That is how it has been known ever since. It is not correct, therefore, to say that this has been the law of the country for 400 years.

As hon. Members who practise in the courts know, the cases which trouble people most are not those of buggery, but cases in which evidence is given by two policemen who are sent round to see whether they can see something suspicious taking place in a urinal. Very often—and I have seen cases turned down by many juries—not dishonestly, but perhaps affected by their job, they will see things that did not in fact happen and will then give testimony on that basis.

An hon. Member of this House was convicted and lost his seat. The only evidence against him was not of any active homosexual practice but that he had smiled at the man in the next stall in the lavatory. On that he was convicted, and he left Parliament.

This is by no means the only sort of problem. Perhaps a person after years of living a normal life decides, having joined some odd faith, that he must confess what happened many years previously. He goes to the police station and the police take evidence. Before anyone knows what is happening half a dozen people are being tried for an offence which they committed six, eight or more years previously.

It is said that things are better now; that an edict has gone out and that the Director of Public Prosecutions must be consulted before prosecutions of the kind I have described are launched. It must be remembered, however, that although that is done, the Director has no power whatever to forbid such a prosecution from being brought or to tell a chief constable, "You must not bring this prosecution forward". It remains within the power of a chief constable to prosecute, even if the Director advises him not to proceed. How chancy this is?

Should we leave on the Statute Book an offence of this kind, an offence which the Wolfenden Committee almost unanimously said should be withdrawn? Should we leave it in the hands of chief constables to make a decision on a matter of this importance, remembering that it just depends on whether the chief constable looks at it with the eyes of reform and enlightenment and says, "I do not think, in view of prevailing opinion, a prosecution should take place"; or whether he looks at it like some hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken today, who are moved by the horror of this kind of thing and who will condemn a man in any circumstances, though not any woman, apparently, who commits offences of this kind?

3.34 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

Like other hon. Members, I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) on the speech he made introducing the Bill. Whatever view one may have about the Measure, there is only one view one can have of his speech; it was exceedingly good and set a tone to the debate which has always characterised the debates we have had on this subject in recent years.

I am opposing the Bill, but my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster is entitled to recall that six years ago, when we last debated this subject, I foresaw the end of this law. He is entitled to know why I still have very strong reservations about it. I confess that I rather envy some of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite who can see their way absolutely clearly through this very difficult subject. To me, the considerations are very evenly balanced even now, and much evidence is still obscure. I say that at once.

With much that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster said I profoundly agree. The worst feature of the law is that it is hard to enforce—he said that it was unenforceable. It is whimsical in effect, and must therefore be most unjust in action. That I accept. And I accept my hon. Friend's inference that it is infernally difficult, talking of this, to avoid an attitude of intolerance on the one hand or, worse, of smugness on the other.

I do not think that we are required in considering this Bill to pass judgment on homosexuals, though I accept the dispassionate and most fair remarks made in a brilliant speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood). I suspect that all generalisations about homosexuals, like all generalisations on homo sapiens, tend to mislead, and a study of Wolfenden makes this very clear. Not the least service that that Report did was to remove a great deal of mythology on the subject and, I must add, myths which both their detractors and their defenders have upheld.

But it is also plain how very little we still know about this subject. The more I study that Report, the clearer it seems to me how profoundly ignorant we are still about the biological, the scientific and the medical causes of homosexuality and, as it may be in some cases, the cure. I wish that I felt that the Bill would stimulate our endeavours to find out more, but I cannot feel that it will. However that may be, I do not think that we can consider this Bill, even with its limited objectives, from the standpoint only of this afflicted minority. I believe that we must take a wider conspectus.

I listened this afternoon with very close attention to the remarks of the Home Secretary. I am not unmindful of the fact that he has to discharge a very difficult task. He came to his great office with expectations raised—perhaps unfairly raised—of his potential as reformer. Let me say at once that I take no exception to anything he said today either as Home Secretary or as a private Member. He will not, I know, take exception if I just remind him of some lines from Hamlet: He may not, as unvalued persons do, Carve for himself; for on his choice depends, The safety and health of the whole state; The crux has been, and I think still is, whether an alteration of the law, in this instance removing homosexual acts in private from the realm of the law, is likely to be injurious to our society at this time. I say "at this time", because judgment on the subject has varied through the ages. I do not think that there is any final answer. Each generation must judge according to its lights.

May such a change be injurious to society today? It is, of course, right to say, as many hon. Members have said, that conduct which is morally wrong but not injurious to society should be left to individual consciences. I accept that. We are not here to judge morals. But we are required to weigh what the consequences may be upon society, for good or for ill, of such a Bill as this. I wish that I felt as confident about these consequences as do some of the sponsors of the Bill.

On the evidence that we have, I cannot see this as an isolated social problem affecting only a self-contained element of our society. Some, I know, are disposed to regard this category of consenting adults as a social enclave, as separate from the rest. That is not quite true, and here I refer to paragraph 174 of the Wolfenden Report, which refers not only to these consenting adults but to those from whom there is extracted a grudging submission. I must add that with other hon. Members I am in doubt as to the precise meaning in the Bill of the word "private". How is that to be defined? I suppose that ultimately the courts must decide. The courts will have some hard decisions to make. We ought to ask ourselves, are we resolving this matter or leaving it to the courts to resolve?

To many of the supporters of the Bill undoubtedly the strongest card—if I may use that term—is the attitude of leading churchmen. With compassion and conviction they support the objects of the Bill. Paradoxically, this is precisely where my deepest misgivings arise. The argument of the church leaders is wholly logical and theologically sound. Homosexual behaviour is sinful, but should not be regarded as criminal, a matter for self-discipline and not for the direction of the State. But for those inside the influence of religion that is a totally justi- fiable and defensible attitude. Church leaders are right to speak for those who are within that influence. We here must consider and speak for others as well. There are today very many outside the influence of religion and outside any secure ethical frame. A secular society is what we are, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster said. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said we are a religious people. Reluctantly, I accept the first of those observations.

Others, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington, can declare, hand on heart, that to change the law in this respect is not to condone homosexuality. They are sincere, but in my submission they are wrong. They are not speaking, and cannot speak, for those to whom the criminal law and the moral law are confluent, those for whom, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) said, there is no other guide-post but the law. Every other day we are reminded of this difficulty. As legislators we find a frightening amount of time taken up—as it was yesterday—by buttressing by Statute a weakening social ethic.

I followed the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington and my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford. I say this to my right hon. Friend. I accept his view as an ideal to which we all aspire. My only doubt is that in following that star we shall discharge our responsibilities to society. We must accept that in a period—transitory, I hope—when religions and ethical sanctions are weak, the criminal law has a special significance.

In that sense, as well as the sense in which the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) spoke, I think public opinion is not ready for this change. If we were considering adults only, I should be inclined to be much more resigned about it, but we are not. Certainly the Bill defends the young, it defends physically all below the age of 21, but when we talk as we must of what is injurious to society we are not talking only of injurious physical acts. What may be the effects of the Bill upon the thinking and attitudes of the young, subject as they will be to the interpretation which some mass media will put upon this? What will be the effect on the work of those closely associated with the young? We cannot be sure.

I speak in all humility—this was a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) made with great feeling—when I ask what will be the effect in universities where some will be on one side of the law and others on the other side. That troubles me. It troubles me particularly also, to take up a point to which many hon. Members have referred, that the effect of changing the law will be larger than some people suppose. If we could start from the beginning again, I for one would not legislate at all. I think that goes for most hon. Members. I would leave it alone. But we cannot start afresh like that.

I cannot accept that the effect of this change will be altogether negligible. It will be considerable. The Home Secretary deployed an argument to us on this point. I must tell him that used in that sense it is the reverse argument to that which was used by the Under-Secretary of State when he addressed the House on Sunday laws not so long ago. Nor can I accept that all consenting adult homosexuals will be content to remain within the law, but outside the social pale. That is contrary to human nature. There will be an overwhelming and perfectly understandable desire to justify, to rationalise.

To conclude, I said six years ago that I did not like the present law, and I do not. I think that imprisonment for consenting adults is useless. I should prefer to see fines or probation. What we have to decide is between a state of the law unsatisfactory though it is but not irredeemable and a new situation which may leave society heirs to a worse state. I do not think that we are altogether ready to alter this most delicate balance between the law and morals, to weigh the effect of that shift upon the present state of our society. Narrowly, therefore, but decisively, I come down against the Bill.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)

My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Deedes) has, as always, presented his case with great moderation and persuasiveness. There are two small points in his argument to which I want to refer. He asked about the definition of "private" in the Bill. Clause 1(2) makes quite clear what the sponsors would regard as a suitable definition of "private". If others produce a more satisfactory definition in Committee, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Berkeley) and the other sponsors would be prepared to accept it.

The other argument of my right hon. Friend's to which I took some exception was his argument, as I understood it, that one should not be too much persuaded by the views of the predominant majority of church leaders on this issue, because they were not primarily concerned with the health of society as a whole. My hon. Friend said, as I understood him, that church leaders very properly were concerned with the hardship and suffering which is caused to homosexuals and were not so much concerned, as we are in the House, with the health of society as a whole. I should have thought that that was to put a very strange construction indeed upon the function of church leaders.

It would have been surprising if during the course of this afternoon's debate many new arguments had been deployed. After all, it is eight years since the Wolfenden Committee reported. A number of hon. Members on both sides have paid tribute to the excellent manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster introduced his Bill. Those tributes were amply justified. My hon. Friend and hon. Members who followed him inevitably trod much the same ground as that which was trodden in two previous debates in the House.

I believe that there is one consideration which should be foremost in our minds when considering the rights and wrongs of this proposition. It is the consideration which was clearly very much in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood). It is that the law as it stands in relation to homosexuality is a very strange thing. This can hardly be contested, because the law as it relates to other similar private sexual acts is entirely different. I think it would be a brave man who sought to argue that a homosexual act between adults in private was more damaging to society than adultery. Adultery, surely, in the majority of cases causes more agony and more destruction to society as a whole where children are involved.

Sir Stephen McAdden (Southend, East)

Reference has been made to evidence from leaders of religious thought, and my hon. Friend is condemning adultery. Is he aware that one leader of religious thought has described adultery as an act of holy communion?

Mr. Chataway

I was not aware of that, neither do I think it is a view which would be shared by the majority of Members in this House. Whether one considers adultery, fornication or homosexual practices between women, it is a strange thing that none of those who oppose this measure of reform are apparently willing to argue that these other practices should be made criminal offences. It suggests to me, and I am sure it suggests to other hon. Members, that even those who are opposed to this reform really feel that it is undesirable for the criminal law to attempt to intervene in the sexual acts of adults in private.

The argument that was in the end advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and which has been adduced by others previously in this debate boils down to this: that if they were seeking to legislate anew in this field of homosexual practices and heterosexual misconduct, they would not seek to render any of these practices criminal. If they were coming into this field afresh they would not introduce any legislation of this kind.

But one or two hon. Members have argued that to repeal this law at this time is bound to give the impression outside that society takes a less serious view of homosexuality. I do not believe that we in this House can conceivably base our actions on the belief that what we do is bound to be misunderstood outside. Of course, in urging the passage of this Bill none of us suggests that homosexuality should cease to be a sin. None of us suggests that even if this Bill were passed the vast majority of people in this country will not still regard homosexual offences with a great deal of distaste. Of course, that will happen. But to argue that we cannot right the very serious wrong which undoubtedly exists in the present situation because our actions would be misunderstood seems to me to be a counsel of despair.

In the end, I believe there are three strong arguments for this Measure. The first is the blackmail argument. Some have argued that some blackmail would continue even if this Bill were passed because homosexuality would be regarded by the vast majority of people as a most unpleasant thing. But surely the great change that would occur if this Bill were passed would be that the majority of those who were being blackmailed would be much more ready to report their tormentors to the police.

Incidentally, those objectors to the reform who argued that blackmail would continue on almost the same scale because society would still take such a very serious view of homosexuality, are undermining the argument that so many of them have put forward elsewhere that to pass this Bill would be to reduce very seriously the deterrent to homosexuality. I think that one can argue the one but not both.

The second major reason for the reform is, as I believe, the random arbitrary nature of the incidence and enforcement of the law at the moment. I know that there is a belief in some quarters that very few prosecutions now take place and that what prosecutions there are have been carefully looked at and cause very little injustice but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster informed the House earlier, there are still about 100 cases a year in which people are prosecuted for private homosexual acts. I do not believe that anybody who looks through those cases could believe that they were in any sense the worst of the millions of such acts that must take place in a year.

It is true that in June, 1964, chief constables were instructed to seek advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about cases of private consenting behaviour. I would emphasise again that there is no question of the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions having to be secured. Chief constables have the right to decide for themselves, but despite that change in 1964 there have been prosecutions of this sort at the Somerset, Newark, Pembroke and Haver-forwest Assizes. A number of these were prosecutions where charges were brought against a number of men as a result of investigations set in train by a statement obtained from one person. A particularly unpleasant feature of one case was that one person whose public act had led to his detection and very proper prosecution was in the end not prosecuted because he gave information which led to the conviction of others whose offences were in private.

A further argument in favour of the Bill is that treatment cannot be given on the scale needed as long as this is a crime. A number of those who have spoken against reform today think with obvious sincerity that this is not the best way of helping the homosexual in society. But the fact is that the vast majority of clergymen who are anxious to give pastoral care and the vast majority of doctors who believe that they could be of assistance to a number of homosexuals argue that this pastoral care and treatment simply cannot be given as long as the patient who suffers goes in fear of prosecution.

In the last minute of this debate I would urge upon the House that the time has come to give a Second Reading to the Bill. We have had years of debate. It is five years since Lord Butler, in what was a friendly speech from the Dispatch Box, said that more debate was needed. That debate has come. This Bill increases the penalties for seducing young people. It seeks to effect a reform which we have discussed for many years, and I commend it to the House.

Mr. Berkeley rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 99.

Division No. 23.] AYES [4.0 p.m.
Abse, Leo Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Maude, Angus
Agnew, Commander Sir Peter Ginsburg, David Mayhew, Christopher
Albu, Austen Goodhart, Philip Meyer, Sir Anthony
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Grant, Anthony Mikardo, Ian
Atkinson, Norman Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Gresham Cooke, R. Miscampbell, Norman
Balniel, Lord Grieve, Percy Molloy, William
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Bell, Ronald Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Hale, Leslie Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick(SheffieldPk)
Berkeley, Humphry Hamilton, William (West Fife) Murray, Albert
Biffen, John Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.) Newens, Stan
Blaker, Peter Hattersley, Roy Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hay, John Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Boston, Terence Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Orbach, Maurice
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Holman, Percy Orme, Stanley
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.) Hordern, Peter Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Homer, John Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Palmer, Arthur
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Howie, W. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bruce-Cardyne, J. Hunt, John (Bromley) Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Parker, John
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Iremonger, T. L. Pavitt, Laurence
Channon, H. P. G. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Perry, Ernest G.
Chapman, Donald Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Chataway, Christopher Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Prentice, R. E.
Costain, A. P. Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Prior, J. M. L.
Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Redhead, Edward
Curran, Charles Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Redmayne Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Dalyell, Tam Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead) Rees., Merlyn
Delargy, Hugh Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Richard, Ivor
Dell, Edmund Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Kirk, Peter Rowland, Christopher
Donnelly, Desmond Lambton, Viscount Royle, Anthony
Driberg, Tom Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Sharpies, Richard
Edelman, Maurice Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Sheldon, Robert
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Emery, Peter Lipton, Marcus Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Longden, Gilbert Silkin, John (Deptford)
Fisher, Nigel Lubbock, Eric Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) MacColl, James Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen) Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Skeffington, Arthur
Floud, Bernard Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Foley, Maurice McNair-Wilson, Patrick Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) McNamara, Kevin Smith, John
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Maddan, Martin Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(st'fford & Stone) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Gibson-Watt, David Marsh, Richard
Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Tilney, John (Wavertree) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Storehouse, John Tuck, Raphael White, Mrs. Eirene
Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) Walden, Brian (All Saints) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Walder, David (High Peak) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Studholme, Sir Henry Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley Wall, Patrick Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Swingler, Stephen Wallace, George Woodhouse, Hon. Christopher
Teeling, Sir William Walters, Dennis Wyatt, Woodrow
Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.) Warbey, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Thornton, Ernest Weitzman, David Mr. Taverne and
Thorpe, Jeremy Wellbeloved, James Mr. St. John-Stevas
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Glover, Sir Douglas Marten, Neil
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Glyn, Sir Richard Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Goodhew, Victor Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Grant-Ferris, R. Monslow, Walter
Berry, Hn. Anthony Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Murton, Oscar
Bingham, R. M. Gurden, Harold Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Black, Sir Cyril Hamilton, M. (Salisbury) Norwood, Christopher
Bossom, Hn. Clive Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Box, Donald Harris, Reader (Heston) Peel, John
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Percival, Ian
Braine, Bernard Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hendry, Forbes Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bullus, Sir Eric Hiley, Joseph Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Buxton, Ronald Hopkins, Alan Shepherd, William
Gary, Sir Robert Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Howard, Hn. C. R. (St. Ives) Sinclair, Sir George
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig, Sir John
Cooper, A. E. Hutchison, Michael Clark Stainton, Keith
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Summers, Sir Spencer
Cordle, John Jones, Arthur (Northants, s.) Swain, Thomas
Corfield, F. V. Kelley, Richard Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcarf
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Kenyon, Clifford Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Kerby, Capt. Henry Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Crowder, F. P. Kershaw, Anthony Thompson, sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Dance, James Kimball, Marcus Tomney, Frank
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lagden, Godfrey Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Lawson, George Ward, Dame Irene
Doughty, Charles Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Webster, David
Drayson, G. B. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Wilkins, W. A.
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Litchfield, Capt. John Wise, A. R.
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn
Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.) McAdden, Sir Stephen TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McLeavy, Frank Mr. Mawby and
Gammans, Lady McMaster, Stanley Sir Charles Taylor.
Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan

Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 164, Noes 107.

Division No. 24.] AYES [4.9 p.m.
Abse, Leo Dalyell, Tam Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)
Agnew, Commander Sir Peter Delargy, Hugh Hattersley, Roy
Albu, Austen Dell, Edmund Hay, John
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Atkinson, Norman Donnelly, Desmond Holman, Percy
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Driberg, Tom Horner, John
Balniel, Lord Edelman, Maurice Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Howie, W.
Bell, Ronald Emery, Peter Hunt, John (Bromley)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Hynd, John (Attercliffe)
Berkeley, Humphry Fisher, Nigel Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Biffen, John Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Blaker, Peter Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n & St.P'cras.S.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Boston, Terence Floud, Bernard Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Foley, Maurice Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.) Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Ginsburg, David Kirk, Peter
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lambton, Viscount
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Gresham Cooke, R. Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Channon, H. P. G. Grieve, Percy Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Chapman, Donald Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Lipton, Marcus
Chataway, Christopher Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Longden, Gilbert
Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank Hale, Leslie Lubbock, Eric
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, William (West Fife) MacColl, James
MacDermot, Niall
Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Studholme, Sir Henry
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain Prentice, R. E. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
McNair-Wilson, Patrick Prior, J. M. L. Swingler, Stephen
McNamara, Kevin Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Teeling, Sir William
Maddan, Martin Redhead, Edward Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Rees, Merlyn Thornton, Ernest
Marsh, Richard Richard, Ivor Thorpe, Jeremy
Mayhew, Christopher Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.) Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Rowland, Christopher Tuck, Raphael
Mikardo, Ian Royle, Anthony Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Miscampbell, Norman Sharpies, Richard Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Molloy, William Sheldon, Robert Wall, Patrick
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Shore, Peter (Stepney) Wallace, George
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.) Walters, Dennis
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick(SheffieldPk) Silkin, John (Deptford) Warbey, William
Murray, Albert Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich) Weitzman, David
Newens, Stan Silverman, Julius (Aston) Wellbeloved, James
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) White, Mrs. Eirene
Orbach, Maurice Skeffington, Arthur Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Orme, Stanley Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Smith, John Wilson, William, (Coventry, S.)
Page, Derek (King's Lynn) Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Palmer, Arthur Steel, David (Roxburgh) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael Wyatt, Woodrow
Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.) Stonehouse, John
Parker, John Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pavitt, Laurence Stross, SirBarnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.) Mr. Taverne and
Perry, Ernest G. Mr. St. John-Stevas.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Goodhart, Philip Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Goodhew, Victor Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Grant, Anthony Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Grant-Ferris, R. Monslow, Walter
Black, Sir Cyril Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Murton, Oscar
Bossom, Sir Clive Gurden, Harold Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Box, Donald Hamilton, M. (Salisbury) Norwood, Christopher
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Braine, Bernard Harris, Reader (Heston) Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Peel, John
Bullus, Sir Eric Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Percival, Ian
Buxton, Ronald Hendry, Forbes Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth
Cary, Sir Robert Hiley, Joseph Price, David (Eastleigh)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hopkins, Alan Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hordern, Peter Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cooper, A. E. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Shepherd, William
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives) Sinclair, Sir George
Cordle, John Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Corfield, F. V. Hutchison, Michael Clark Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John
Costain, A. P. Iremonger, T. L. Stainton, Keith
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye) Summers, Sir Spencer
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Jones, Arthur (Northants, s.) Swain, Thomas
Crowder, F. P. Kelley, Richard Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Curran, Charles Kenyon, Clifford Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Dance, James Kerby, Capt. Henry Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kershaw, Anthony Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Kimball, Marcus Tomney, Frank
Doughty, Charles Lagden, Godfrey Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Walder, David (High Peak)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Ward, Dame Irene
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Litchfield, Capt. John Webster, David
Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) McAdden, Sir Stephen Wise, A. R.
Gammans, Lady McLeavy, Frank
Gibson-Watt, David McMaster, Stanley TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan Marten, Neil Mr. Mawby and
Glover, Sir Douglas Maude, Angus Sir Charles Taylor.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).