§ Mr. Speaker
We now come to Amendment No. 44, with which I think it will be convenient to discuss Amendments No. 46, in page 5, line 6, to leave out from 'man' to 'buggery' in line 8, and Amendment No. 47, which, I understand, is consequential, in page 5, line 10, at the end to insert:'where either of those men was at the time of its commission under the age of twenty-one:Provided that this section shall not prevent the arrest, or the issue of a warrant for the arrest, of a person for any such offence, or the remand in custody or on bail of a person charged with any such offence.
§ 3.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Abse
I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 5, line 6, to leave out from 'against' to 'buggery' in line 8 and to insert 'any man for the offence of'.
In reaching these last selected Amendments, the House will be aware that there were misgivings in Committee about certain anomalies, which the Amendments are an attempt to meet. They try to avoid two dangers which caused hon. Members concern. The first was the case of a long-standing relationship between two partners, one of whom was just over 21 and the other just under. The second was that of an older man who had been seduced by a man under 21 or blackmailed by him.
The House will appreciate that the Bill requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions when the police wish to prosecute the younger man in either category. They are free to prosecute the older man, although this may not do justice between the offenders. This arises particularly in a case in which the younger man is the black-mailer.
1492 These Amendments seek to cure this and to ensure that where the parties to the offence are an adult and a minor the offence can be looked at by the Director of Public Prosecutions as a whole. I hope those who were members of the Committee and still are not happy at the manner in which we have approached this matter will agree that it would be quite unfair to the police if we did not leave them free to take action without the necessity of trying to find, what may be a difficult task, if the consent of the Director could be obtained.
The second Amendments adds the proviso to Clause 8 to make it clear that the necessity for the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions does not include the arrest of the offender. There are similar offences which can be prosecuted only with the Director's consent. I hope that the House will accept these Amendments. I stress that they would give some possibility in very difficult across-the-line cases where those concerned are just above or under the line, for the Director of Public Prosecutions to give consent and to look at the whole of the circumstances in which there is an older and a young man engaged, perhaps, in the process of blackmail.
§ Mr. Percival
I see that there is a difficulty here, but I suggest to the promoters of the Bill that although it is too late in the day to put it right there is a chance for the Bill to have refinements made to it in another place. That is why I want to express the worries I have about it at the moment.
I am not sure that I understand that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) was postulating a case where the two persons committing the act of buggery together was a situation in which one would be guilty of the offence whereas the other would not. I cannot see how such a case could arise. If one of the 1493 persons is under 21 I understand that both would be guilty of the offence. Only if neither is under 21 is either not guilty. I suggest that the hon. Member has got the opposite of what he intended.
The result of these Amendments would be that where both parties were of full age and there was, therefore, no question of corruption of anyone under 21, the circumstances would be such that the maximum penalty would be two years. One would be postulating the least in these series of offences and the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions would not be necessary. Under the Amendments, on the other hand, in a more serious category of case where one of the parties was under 21, the consent of the Director would be required.
I do not want the House to think that I am insensible of the difficulties of deciding when to prosecute, but I doubt whether it is right to do as we so frequently do—always to pass this difficult question on to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He is there to prosecute, not to decide who shall be prosecuted. It is for the courts to decide, after hearing the evidence, whether the circumstances are such that perhaps there should be no punishment or whether there should be substantial punishment. When one is considering the sort of crime in which there may well be cases in which, at all events, one would not want to see a person punished, it is tempting to say, "Let us get out of the difficulty by passing it to the Director of Public Prosecutions", in the mistaken belief that there is one individual, of responsibility and of standing, who will consider all these matters. We are passing so many duties on to him in one Statute after another that we must be passing them on to a group of persons, other than the courts, who act in silence.
This is of considerable importance, because when the courts deal with a matter the public know what they have done, and if the courts punish a man for an act of this nature when the public think that he ought not to have been punished, then the public have the chance to express their views loud and clear and the courts will pay regard to them. When we are giving discretion to someone who acts in silence, we are short-circuiting that procedure and the public never have the opportunity to express a view on 1494 whether the action taken is right or wrong.
We have an anomalous situation under the Amendments. Where both parties are over 21, nobody's consent for prosecution is required. Where one of the parties is under 21, we pass the responsibility to the Director of Public Prosecutions. There is a difficulty—I will not enlarge on it—and I hope that the promoters will look at it again. One point with which I agree is the proviso at the end of Amendment No. 47.
A further reason why I myself am not attracted by this process of putting decisions on the Director of Public Prosecutions is that it provides quite often for a wholly unmeritorious defence. Somebody in the hurry of instituting proceedings has forgotten to get the Director's consent, and the point is taken at the trial; if the consent is required and the consent has not been obtained, the court is obliged to take the point, and one does see that, because Parliament has provided for this consent, and somebody in haste has forgotten to get it, a man who ought to he tried, and, if found guilty, ought to be punished, gets off on a wholly unmeritorious technicality. This is a further reason why one should be careful not to extend the scope of this sort of provision too far.
I understand—and I shall be glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill if I am wrong—that it is really to that last possibility that the proviso which is the last part of Amendment No. 47 is directed; that it is to rule out a possible argument. I think that it has been argued that the institution of proceedings starts with the arrest or remand in custody, and I assume that the intent of that proviso is to deal with that difficulty, should it arise. Though I have not much sympathy, for the reasons I have mentioned, for the first part of the Amendment, I am in sympathy with this desire, because one thing I do not want to see is escaping on wholly unmeritorious technical arguments. I therefore invite the promoters to look at it again and consider whether they have done what they want to do, because I am just as anxious to see that they have.
There was an argument at the Old Bailey not more than about a month ago as to what is the point of time at which proceedings are instituted; because once 1495 that point of time has gone, if the consent has not been obtained before that point of time, and it is past, there is nothing that can be done about it, unless the man can be charged with some other offence. It was held in that case at the Old Bailey that the moment the parties were brought before the court, and charged with such and such a charge, the committal proceedings started, albeit formally; even simply with evidence of arrest, the proceedings were started; and it was held that consent not having been obtained by that time, though it had been obtained by the time of the next hearing, it was too late and the count had to be quashed.
I invite the promoters to have another look, to make sure that in this proviso they have achieved what, I agree with them, is a point which ought to be covered—the one meritorious point of these Amendments.
§ Mr. Hogg
I am unhappy about this Amendment and I should like to say why. It may be that I am entirely wrong, and that because of the late hour I have misunderstood the Amendment, but I want to put my difficulty frankly before the House, and perhaps either the promoter of the Bill or the Under-Secretary of State will reply.
As Clause 8 of the Bill stands, as I understand it, it provides—and I think it is an acceptable provision—that if one of these two potential offenders is under 21 the Director of Public Prosecutions consent is required for prosecution. That is intelligible, because one can understand why one does not want to prosecute a young man, even if an offence has been committed, without careful consideration being given to the situation.
On the other hand, the supporters of the Bill have said from the very start that they do not wish in any way to encourage people, or make it difficult for people to be prosecuted who corrupt youth. I fully accept that. The promoter of the Bill has been perfectly consistent about it. He has said it, and I believe him. But this being a Bill which is only to enable those who, being adults and consenting, do certain acts in private to be free from the danger of prosecution, I wonder what the effect of the Amendment is.
1496 Unless I have misunderstood it, the effect is that no consent of the Director is required where it is alleged that the act was done without consent. That is quite plain from the Amendments. Again, no consent of the Director is required where it is not done in private—whatever"private" may mean. If not done in private, no consent is required. But if either party is under 21, it seems to me that on the Amendment, as distinct from the Bill unamended, that consent is required. Is that desirable? It means that if a man commits an offence on a boy of 14 or 15 the consent of the Director has to be required every time before one prosecutes.
What is the justification for that proposal? The promoter gave us to understand that all he was doing was to try to meet a few misgivings expressed in Committee, but I believe that he is doing a great deal more than meet misgivings because, as I understand the Bill, without the Amendment, the county prosecutor is in any case perfectly free to prosecute a man who interferes with a boy of 14, as he is at present as an ordinary matter of police procedure.
What the promoter of the Bill now seems to be proposing is that where the very worst cases occur the Director's consent should first be required. That is the case where there is deliberate corruption of youth by a grown man. I will not have that. I am against that, if that is the result of the Amendment, as I think it is. I do not think that the promoter intended that or he would not have let the House suppose that what he was doing was simply getting rid of a few misgivings expressed in Committee; for instance, getting rid of the case—the unusual case, but not unknown—where the young man corrupts the older one. I cannot believe that it is right to say that no prosecution should take place for an act of gross indecency and sodomy where a mature man is accused of corrupting a young boy. I believe that that would be the effect of the Amendment.
If I am wrong, I shall be glad to be told so, but if I am right, I oppose the Amendment most strongly.
§ Mr. Taverne
As the promoter of the Bill has said, the effect of the Amendments is to extend Clause 8 to provide 1497 for the consent of the Director for any prosecution relating to an act between men where one of the parties involved is under 21, as opposed to the present provision where consent is required only in the case of the prosecution of someone who is under 21.
The Amendment arose out of a plea in Committee, and out of the borderline cases for which a special plea was made. We felt in Committee that this point was worth looking at, and we consulted the Director of Public Prosecutions as to the best way of doing it. It had occurred to some that, perhaps, one way of dealing with these borderline cases to which my hon. Friend referred was to exempt certain classes, or to provide for the Director's consent being needed only in certain classes of case—for example, only in cases where there was any kind of homosexual conduct in private.
It was also thought that perhaps one should ask for the Director's consent in every case. But that would be going rather wide. It would mean that one would also require his consent in obvious cases, where there was clearly a public act or where there was clearly no consent. The Director felt that, if one was to have some provision of this kind, the best way to do it was the way suggested in the Amendment.
Any attempt to limit strictly the cases requiring the Director's consent would appear to involve some anomalies and it would be undesirable to ask the police to interpret some highly complicated consent questions—whether it was a case in which the consent of both parties to the act was needed or not needed, for instance.
The Amendment has the merit of simplicity and brings within the requirement of the Director's consent all types of cases over which disquiet is felt. I specify two particular types of case. The first is that of the long-standing relationship where one of the partners is just under 21 and the other is just over 21. It would be an extraordinary anomaly if, in such a case, we required the Director's consent in relation to the person just under 21, but not in relation to the person just over 21.
The other case is where the older man has been seduced by the man just under 21. The Bill requires the Director's 1498 consent only in the case of the younger man. The advantage of the Amendment is that it enables the Director to look at a particular case as a whole, to judge it as a whole and not to separate it into two parts—one the act of the older man, just over 21, and the other the act of the younger man, just under 21.
I realise that there seem to be some anomalies, but in clear cases where an offence had been done without consent the Director would not be consulted. The Amendment leaves the police free to prosecute without his consent only in a case where the parties are adults and, therefore, where the offence was either in public or without the consent of both parties.
This requires a consequential Amendment for the reason stated by the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival)—because there might be some doubt whether or not the requirement of the Director's consent precluded the right to arrest. There might be a case where proper enforcement of the law required an arrest to be made for a homosexual offence before there had been time to obtain the consent of the Director, and the consequential Amendment makes it clear that the power of arrest exists.
This deals with cases passing over the line. It is desirable that they should be dealt with. It would be an anomaly to have the Director's consent required in one and not in the other. The Amendment enables him to view an incident as a whole.
§ Mr. Hogg
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman answer a simple question? Suppose a man is found committing an offence with a boy of 16 or 18. Does it mean that, by this Amendment, the man would be prosecuted without the consent of the Director? That is what I want to know. I am not talking about people just under 21, but of those plainly committing an offence under the Bill by the corruption of youth. Does that require the consent of the Director under the Amendment?
§ Mr. Taverne
Yes. It does. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Oh"] I understand that some hon. Members will be against that, but it seems to me that the evil the Amendment is designed to cure is considerable and that the Amendment should commend itself to the House.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill:—
|Division No. 424.]||AYES||[4.10 a.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hordern, Peter||Walters, Dennis|
|Cordle, John||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Farr, John||Mawby, Ray||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Mr. Edward M. Taylor and|
|Goodhew, Victor||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Ian Percival.|
|Gurden, Harold||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Abse, Leo||Hamling, William||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Albu, Austen||Haseldine, Norman||Pardos, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Hooley, Frank||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Archer, Peter||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Richard, Ivor|
|Barnes, Michael||Huckfieid, L.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as)|
|Booth, Albert||Hunt, John||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Cant, R. B.||jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Ryan, John|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Chapman, Donald||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Judd, Frank||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Dell, Edmund||Kirk, Peter||Stonehouse, John|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Luard, Evan||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lubbock, Eric||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Taverne, Dick|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th&C'b'e)||MacDermot, Niall||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Ellis, John||Macdonald, A. H.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|English, Michael||Mackintosh, John P.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Ensor, David||McNamara, J. Kevin||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Faulds, Andrew||Maddan, Martin||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Marquand, David||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian||Worsley, Marcus|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Montgomery, Fergus||Yates, Victor|
|Gardner, Tony||Newens, Stan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ginsburg, David||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Mr. Eric G. Varley and|
|Gregory, Arnold||Orme, Stanley||Mr. Ian Gilmour.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
§ Question put, That those words be there in the Bill:—1500
§ The House divided: Ayes 15, Noes 103
§ The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 15.
|Newens, Stan||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Orme, Stanley||Ryan, John||Whitaker, Ben|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Panneil, Rt. Hn. Charles||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Pardoe, John||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Skeffington, Arthur||Worsley, Marcus|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Yates, Victor|
|Richard, Ivor||Stonehouse, John|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Robinson.Rt.Hn.Kennett(St.P'c'as)||Swingler, Stephen||Mr. Eric G. Varley and|
|Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Taverne, Dick||Mr. Ian Gilmour.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Gurden, Harold||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Qulntin||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Cordle, John||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Walters, Dennis|
|Farr, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Ian Percival and|
|Mr. Edward M. Taylor.|
Amendment made: No. 47, in page 5, line 10, at end insert:
'where either of those men was at the time of its commission under the age of twenty-one:
Provided that this section shall not prevent the arrest, or the issue of a warrant for the arrest, of a person for any such offence, or the remand in custody or on bail of a person charged with any such offence.'—[Mr. Abse.]
§ 4.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Abse
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It would be churlish of me if I did not first thank you, Mr. Speaker, for being present. I apologise for having kept you so long. It would be equally churlish if I did not thank all those hon. Members who have attended this prolonged debate.
I am grateful for the constructive criticisms from the Front Bench opposite, and I thank all those hon. Members who, although they have differed from me, have throughout almost the whole very trying night discharged their task of putting their point of view with considerable courtesy, which has pervaded our proceedings—in contrast, I gather, with events during recent nights.
We have reached a stage where we can say that there is the possibility of the Bill now becoming an Act which is socially useful, will help make this country a little more civilised, and will help make more integrated within the com- 1502 munily a group which has for so long been alienated and had attached to its condition an unnecessary criminal stigma.
I believe that the Bill has had considerable benefits from having already been digested in another place. I hope that it will not be long before we send it there for its final confirmation so that Britain, like a great deal of the civilised world, will be able to say that her penal law has, at least in small measure, been brought nearer the point where we can really and truly be proud of it.
§ 4.29 a.m.
§ Mr. Hogg
I hope not to spend many moments, but I have not hitherto expressed any opinion about the merits of the Bill. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) for having said a kind word about the very few interventions I have made. He described them as helpful and constructive. I assure him that they were intended to be such.
The main issues in the Bill have neither excited in my mind the admiration which the hon. Gentleman evidently feels for it nor the detestation which has sometimes been expressed by its opponents. Until the last Amendment, which, I think, will prove to be a terrible mistake and which, I hope, will be remedied in another place' I had not felt there was need for very strong opinions to be expressed from either Front Bench. There is, however, one overwhelming argument for the Bill which I concede at once, and that is that it is difficult to justify the attachment of a criminal sanction to conduct which cannot be prevented or to keep in being a law which cannot be enforced.
1503 The purpose of the Bill is to remove from the field of criminality homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. I concede that every year there is a very small number of prosecutions in respect of acts to which the Bill can possibly apply. But I can say this—and I think that I owe it to the House to say it. I have been connected with the legal profession for 35 years, and, although at one time or another I have had to deal with a number of homosexual cases, never have I handled a case in the criminal courts which would have been affected by the Bill.
In every case with which I have had anything to do, either the act was done in public or it was done to a person under 21 years of age. Therefore, the idea that a very large number of people should utter loud cheers because we have removed from the field of criminality something which is virtually never prosecuted excites my surprise rather than my enthusiasm.
There are two arguments for the Bill which I feel less enthusiasm for and about which I should like to express some doubts. Ever since Lord Jowitt made a speech on this matter in another place, it has been very widely said that such a Bill as this would prevent blackmail. I do not believe that. I also think that it is an argument which people should use with very great caution. We do a real disservice, not only to homosexuals, but to other people who are, and can be, blackmailed to pretend that blackmail is something which anybody ever need pay.
I beg the House to believe that nobody with a spark of intelligence or courage, whatever he has done, need ever pay a pennyworth of blackmail to anybody. If he is afraid to go to the police, let him go to a competent solicitor, who will tell him the answer. Do not let us pretend that that can be a justification or an advantage in altering the criminal law, because it is not so.
I have always recognised that in a purely permissive society there is a great deal to be said against punishing consenting adults in private if one catches them, which one seldom does, for their form of vice when there are many other equally disgusting and revolting practices which do not attract the criminal law. But, as I have no enthusiasm for the per- 1504 missive society, that is an argument which appeals to me less than it does to a great many other people.
For these reasons, I cannot join the encomiums with which the hon. Member for Pontypool is, no doubt, about to be overwhelmed, or even his encomium of the Bill. It is a small Measure which will have very little effect on our social life. I give the hon. Gentleman high praise for his skill, his pertinacity, his reasonableness—except on the last Amendment—and his ingenuity. However, I view the Bill without favour, but without the lamentations of despair with which some of its opponents have greeted its passage through Parliament.
§ 4.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
I can share the feelings of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) on the passage of this Bill, or at least on reaching Third Reading. It will not cause undue alarm nor have a devastating effect on the life of this country as we know it.
It is with a true sense of humility that I rise to address the House in a debate of this kind. It is by no means unnatural to have absolute revulsion against a Bill of this type. It would be impossible for normal people not to be extremely worried about it, as many of my constituents are.
With lack of charity and without venom, I say unequivocally that it was a bad Bill, to begin with, that it is a bad Bill now and that it will be a bad Bill till the end of time. It will be a bad Bill through time to eternity because homosexual acts are a perversion of a natural function.
To change the law of our own land, even though in conformity with other countries, would be retrograde step, a move toward perdition and an act of moral cowardice. These are strong words, which are so intended and which I believe are justified. As a Member of Parliament and of the Committee upstairs, I have listened attentively and respectfully to right hon. and hon. Member's demanding this change. There has been specious argument, tremendous rhetoric and wonderful eloquence in a base and unworthy cause, if one could call it a cause.
Having said that, one must also concede, which I do graciously, that the Bill 1505 has been well presented. There was willingness to debate issues and Amendments and in conceding the request of the Merchant Navy and the National Maritime Board for Amendments, there has been demonstrated a readiness to placate. For small mercies, we are truly grateful.
As we have now reached a critical stage in the progress of that Bill, one must not and cannot let one's opinions and principles be vitiated or whittled down in any way. A modicum of tolerance and willingness to concede is always appreciated in this House and, to do him justice, the sponsor made a gesture and in so doing demonstrated a kind of courage, because he risked vexing some of his hon. Friends and endangering the progress of the Bill. He went out of his way to make good a glaring deficiency. It is to his credit, but it served only to make a thoroughly bad Bill a little more palatable.
My attitude towards this crime, which is what it has been for a long time and until this moment—and I do not want to be vitriolic about it—is, as always in every sphere and situation, to try to hate sin and love the sinner. I assure the House that it is in no holier-than-thou attitude that I am saying what is in my mind. If my own sins were written on my forehead, I would not be speaking here.
Not with the widest stretch of imagination can it be said that the Bill provides a real help for the homosexual as a person. That is what I am concerned about in the main and that is what I consider to be the gravest possible omission. That is what troubles me exceedingly about the Bill. We have plumbed the depths in our deliberations, and these matters take a lot of time, but there is no evidence that any person benefits as a person from indulging in homosexual acts. Rather is he kept immature and, consequently, prevented from attaining full development as a personality.
There is ample evidence that a homosexual cannot maintain a permanent relationship with another homosexual, but has to keep changing. This in itself is evidence of great instability, whereas the adapting of himself to life under his own difficult circumstances makes possible development to maturity which is not otherwise possible.
It cannot be denied that homosexual acts are a perversion of a natural func- 1506 tion and if indulged in freely must of their very nature militate against the homosexual as a responsible and mature human being. It follows, therefore, as surely as night follows day, that since society is made up of individual human beings, the more immature human beings there are, the more society as a whole becomes immature.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The hon. Member is entering on a discourse on the nature of homosexuality. He must discuss the Bill. This is Third Reading, and he must confine his remarks to what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. Mahon
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall endeavour to conform. as you have so kindly directed me.
It is some comfort that penalties have been increased for any attempt at corruption of the young, but, alas, one swallow does not make a summer. To me, this represents just one more palliative. Homosexuals seek out the young and are not easily deterred.
There has at no time been any attempt to wreck the Bill other than by talking about its defects. I remember that on Second Reading that accusation was levelled at hon. Members who dared to speak in a critical sense. We have continued similarly today. Mine is a frontal attack against the Bill, as I believe that it is inimical to the decency, dignity and moral fibre of the nation.
I strongly and conscientiously believe that the future will reveal that people who hold the view that the Bill will promote public morality are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. It is a grave misstatement to refer to homosexuality as a peripheral moral issue detracting from the apprehensions of the professional criminal. It is mischievous to blur the issue in this way. It is not only mischievous, but dangerous and dishonest.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) is not in his place now, and has not been during the discussion on the Bill. I hope that he has a good reason for not being here. There was some doubt in his mind about the extent, and I think the sincerity, of some of the things that were said about the Bill. To relieve any dubiety which he may be feeling, may I say that I am against the Bill lock, stock and barrel, 1507 root and branch, hook, line and sinker, warts and all.
§ Mr. Mahon
I am aware of this, because I served on the Standing Committee. This is not my province, and I have great difficulty in understanding all the implications of it. I shall certainly give the palm to the hon. Member for Chelmsford for his brilliant advocacy in what he believes to be right. However, the Home Secretary skilfully glided away from any verbal combat, or anything prejudicial to what the hon. Gentleman was doing, and I think that I would do well to follow his example.
The hon. Gentleman said that we were drafting human beings into ghettoes. My reply to this is that even the worst types of criminal, in every capacity, including that of murder, are incarcerated for a comparatively short time. Plans for such people and their rehabilitation are always operative, and these should be extended and persevered with.Unfortunately, society must recognise—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Neither the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), nor his remarks, nor rehabilitation, are matters concerned with the Third Reading of the Bill. I hope that the hon. Member will address his remarks to the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member can discuss only matters that are in the Bill. He may discuss whether these are good or bad, but I think that in his remarks he was getting away from even that interpretation of the Third Reading debate.
§ Mr. Mahon
I think that the Bill is a bad Bill. I said so in the first instance, and I am continuing to say it with the 1508 permission of the Chair. It is a bad Bill because, unfortunately, society must recognise—and I think it does as well as hon. Members do—the defects of the present situation. People recognise, too, that there is a growing number of depraved creatures who openly flaunt their depravity and laugh in the face of any well disposed person who suggests rehabilitation. I agree that this presents a great difficulty.
To suggest that the law as it stands puts good people who were born to carry this cross into ghettoes beyond the pale in society, to be treated as pariahs, is a travesty of the facts. There are always ways and means in Parliament by which we can react to great difficulties rather than wash our hands of the situation, as we have done in the manner of Pontius Pilate. I believe that the ever-increasing tendency to turn a blind eye will serve our country ill. Even now I have not been convinced—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
These are not matters within the Bill. I must ask the hon. Member to address himself to the contents of the Bill.
§ Mr. Mahon
That means that I shall have to delete some part of what I had wished to say. Even now, as I was about to say when I was called to order, the Bill is not well drafted. It fails lamentably, for example, to define "privacy". That will present great difficulties in the working of the Bill, and one can already see the rocks ahead. The more one ponders over the Bill, the more doubtful one becomes. Homosexual orgies, and the opportunity for blackmail will not be killed by its passing.
I say that we should be legislating to prevent homosexual practices and not spend time encouraging the scope of homosexuality. We are being asked to deal with this sickness. The Bill asks us to bless that sickness with lawful approval, but I question the right of the House to legislate in this way. Most people believe that homosexual practices are an offence, and that homosexuals, like "pop stars", are born and not made. When one finds a flaunting of homosexuality, one feels—if the House will forgive the colloquialism—the desire "to land him one in the chops". I say that this House should do the same to the Bill.
1509 My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), in the process of seeking support for what he considers to be a measure of justice, is both popular and unpopular; popular and exasperating at the same time, although I find it difficult on personal grounds, even when he comes into the House looking like a fugitive from "Wagon Train", to be critical of him. My hon. Friend really does endeavour to please, but, in all sincerity, I question the right of the House to legislate in this way. Opinions have been expressed in the House that the people of the country are in favour of the Bill. They certainly are not in my part of the country. My hon. Friend has failed to please. He has not been in luck with this Bill, but I wish him better luck next time.
§ 4.54 a.m.
§ Sir C. Taylor
This is a Bill about which many people feel very deeply. I know that the hon. Member who has just sat down feels very deeply about it and, whether his remarks were in order or not, surely we should all respect some of the things which he said from his heart. We should not laugh at them.
I preface my remarks by saying that I think it peculiar that, within four or five days, two Private Members' Bills have been before the House, and both sponsored by the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"] Yes, sponsored by the Government. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill and this Bill, sponsored by the Government—both Private Members' Bills—have been taken over by the Government, and given time by the Government. The fact that these Bills have been so taken over is something which, in all the time I have been in this House, I have never known. They are two Bills about which the House feels keenly and upon which it is very strongly divided, and it is unthinkable that they should have been given time by the Government and become virtually Government Bills, and be pushed through the House.
One would have thought that the Home Secretary had enough on his plate to deal with crime—the shooting of bank employees, the taking of drugs by teenagers and the cases of rape, without taking the time of the House to deal 1510 with a Bill which nobody really ever wanted. I am glad to say that nobody in my constituency wanted it, and I do not believe that many people in the country wanted it, either. This is another occasion where the Government are completely out of step with the people, who do not believe in buggery.
It would be churlish of me, on this occasion, not to congratulate the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) on his Parliamentary performance, but the House of Commons—this honourable House—will regret the passage of the Bill in due course, as I regret it intensely. I have always been against it. I was against it when it was first introduced and I shall continue to be against it while the Bill goes through its other stages elsewhere. I deplore this evening's happenings.
§ 4.58 a.m.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I want to intervene only briefly. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Sir C. Taylor), being in his narrow-mindedness untypical even of his constituents, is fully entitled to his views about the Bill, which he has expressed at considerable length. But the majority opinion in the House is also entitled to its view, and I am surprised that he takes the view—with the House feeling as deeply about this subject as he says it does—that there is something inappropriate about the Government making it possible for the House to come to a decision on the Bill. That is all that the Government have done. The Government have not taken an attitude on the Bill, although I make no attempt to disguise the fact that my attitude throughout has been one of personal support for it.
The hon. Member tells me of all the other things that I should be doing; I endeavour to do what I can in the other fields, and the hon. Member is gravely mistaken if he thinks that we assist the police or the forces of law and order by keeping subject to the criminal law behaviour which great bodies of civilised opinion do not regard as criminal. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) on getting the Bill through to its final stages and all hon. Members who 1511 have sat up for the second all-night sitting in four days. Their labours have not been in vain.
Taking a higher view of the Bill than did the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I believe that it is an important piece of social legislation which we have now put well on the way to the Statute Book. We cannot complain about the debate in the later stages of the night, although it is unfortunate that we had it at this time, and if the debate on the Friday that we discussed it had been of the same quality, all points of substance could have been discussed on that day. If this were not so, it is surprising that the Committee stage occupied this much of a Committee Hansard and went through in a single morning—
§ Mr. Jenkins
That is another criticism of how seriously hon. Members take their duties in Committee and makes it the more inappropriate to hold up progress in the House.
This is the end of a long road. It is almost exactly seven years since my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health introduced a Motion in support of Wolfenden, which I had the honour to wind up, and we were defeated by a vote of more than two to one. Opinion has moved considerably since then in the House and, I believe—though we can all have our own views—in the country, and the position which we have now reached broadly mirrors that movement.
It would be a mistake to think—my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) has some curious views on this—that by what we are doing tonight we are giving a vote of confidence or congratulation to homosexuality. Those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of loneliness, guilt and shame. The crucial question, which we are nearly at the end of answering decisively, is, should we add to those disadvantages the full rigour of the criminal law? By its overwhelming decisions, the House has given a fairly clear answer, and I hope that the Bill will now make rapid progress towards the Statute Book. It will be an important and civilising Measure.
§ 5.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Mawby
The Home Secretary described this Bill as an important piece of social legislation. I disagree. One point which I found difficult to understand was that if we had acted in our Friday debate as we have acted tonight we would have done much better. I was here all that Friday and found little to complain about in hon. Members putting their valid points. On his point about the Committee stage, we should make it clear that points of order were raised then about hon. Members having been notified only two days before that they would be Members of the Committee, and, naturally, the Chairman would not accept starred Amendments. Hon. Members did not have time to table Amendments which could have been called.
This is one of the reasons why my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) tabled for Report the same Amendments which could not be called in Committee. That Committee stage was very short mainly because hon. Members knew of their selection very late—I do not complain about that—and because Amendments could not be called because they were starred. I hope that disposes of the argument, for so long put forward, that in some way hon. Members are being rather naughty in having only a short Committee stage and then a long Report stage. It was the only action which opponents of the Bill could take when faced with that situation.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he was pleased that there had been a change of opinion. Obviously one can measure the change of opinion in this House by Divisions on the Bill tonight compared with some time ago, but the change of opinion among hon. Members is not reflected throughout the country. Many people in the country still believe that this is a bad Bill. They take much the same line as was taken by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon), who opposed the Bill hook, line and sinker and would like it to be sunk.
On Third Reading one must deal only with what is in the Bill. It is completely illogical, and I believe it has been all the way through, that in Clause 1(5) the whole of the Army, Navy and Air Force are exempt from the operations of the Bill. If it is such a good Bill, there must 1513 be a very valid reason why those men are left out of its provisions. It may be that it is felt that it would be bad for good order and discipline. One has to look wider than the Armed Forces to see who should be exempted. It may be felt that it would endanger security in the Forces. If so, many sections, particularly those who have signed undertakings under the Official Secrets Act, should be looked at to make certain whether they should be exempt.
The most illogical act was in Committee when the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) introduced a new Clause exempting crews of the Merchant Navy. He asked the Committee to accept the new Clause not necessarily on the ground of logicality. Even the sponsor of the Bill accepted that it had lost its logicality, if it ever had any, by that proposed exemption. I agree that on Second Reading very powerful arguments were put forward for preventing homosexual acts in the Merchant Navy to be included. Just as good arguments have been put forward concerning other walks of life. The Bill has been made more illogical than it was before.
Clause 3 is completely contrary to what the sponsors always said. They said they wanted the Bill to do two things: to legalise acts between consenting adults in private and to increase penalties against those who interfere with children. Yet Clause 3 drastically reduces penalties which can be suffered by a man committing buggery with a boy of 16 or over.
A point which has been missed, and this again may be part of the illogicality, was that an Amendment was tabled to Clause 5(3) dealing with living on the earnings of male prostitution. That subsection says:Anyone may arrest without a warrant a person found committing an offence under this section.Surely that is one of the points which ought to be cleared up. To perpetuate the position of what could be no more or less than the public informer, who needs no warrant and who under this subsection can presumably arrest anybody on his suspicion that a person is in breach of Clause 5 is an oversight—unless there is some reason for it which completely escapes me.
1514 The greatest illogicality of all is that the Act will not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland. I can understand it not applying to Northern Ireland, but I cannot understand why Scotland and England should be split in this way unless the sponsors realised that if they included Scotland, all Scottish Members would descend in their wrath and vote solidly against the Bill. That may be the main reason why Scotland and Northern Ireland were excluded.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor
Does not my hon. Friend think that it may also be the reason why the Bill has been discussed on a Monday evening and not, say, on a Wednesday evening?
§ Mr. Mawby
I cast no aspersions on anyone. The Government have given time for the Bill, and it happens to be on a Monday. That is not completely satisfactory to country Members, and particularly Scottish members, but I would not accuse the Leader of the House of having that in mind when he decided to put the Bill down for Monday night. It may well be that he had it in mind, but I know the difficulties of the Leader of the House in fitting all the business into a pattern, and I am casting no aspersions at him.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
The hon. Member may be casting no aspersions on the Leader of the House, but he is certainly casting aspersions on Scottish Members. Is it not a complete myth that they are not here on a Monday?
§ Mr. Mawby
I do not know whether it is a complete myth. I have been in the House for a long time and I have certainly never before seen so many Liberal Members here at this time of the morning. It is obviously a very important subject for Liberals, including Scottish Liberals, to be present at this time. But that is purely by the way.
No one can be in any doubt about my attitude to the Bill, but I congratulate the hon. Member for Pontypool on the tremendous work which he has put in. However we may feel about the Bill, he has put a great deal of endeavour into it, and it would be wrong if I did not offer him my congratulations on the work that he has done and the success which he has obviously had.
§ 5.13 a.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins (Putney)
I shall not detain the House for more than a moment in adding my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). In making my only intervention in the debates on the Bill, it is appropriate that I should follow the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), because I want to take the opportunity to correct a point which was made by another opponent of the Bill, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), inaccurately, and I have no doubt inadvertently, in the course of the discussion of the question of consent on Report. He said:I think that it must be within the knowledge of all right hon. and hon. Members that it is commonly rumoured—and certainly there is no reason to doubt the general correctness of the rumours—that employment in various walks of life, particularly in reference to the stage and entertainment world, cinema and television, can very often be obtained only as a result of willingness on the part of the individual to participate in the kinds of acts dealt with in this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1967; Vol. 748, c. 2182.]That is sheer nonsense. I have been engaged in the world of entertainment as an official of Actors' Equity, the trade union concerned, for 15 years. During that time many hundreds of contracts came to my knowledge. Not on any occasion was I ever aware of any inducement of this sort ever being offered to any of the members of the Association as an attraction, as it were, to engagement. Therefore, I think that this sort of rumour, which possibly passes around as some sort of a joke, should not be held out as something which really happens. It does not in fact happen at all.
Of course, it is true that the existence of homosexuality has for many years been very generally accepted and recognised on the stage, and I do not think it is any the less healthy for that. On the contrary, I would suggest to the House that it is perhaps more healthy to recognise that it does in fact exist, and the passage of this Bill, which I very warmly welcome, will do something to remove the whole thing from the feverish imagination which starts this sort of rumour or story, and bring it out as a normal fact of life, in which a relatively small section of the community is in the position of deserving our sympathy rather than our condemnation, since, for example, the members of that small 1516 section of the community can never have their hearts lifted by the sight of a mini skirt.
I think that the House in considering this whole matter will regard this Bill as a civilising Measure in as much as it will remove the facts of homosexuality from the area of the dirty corner, the dark cupboard, and specious speculation, out into the light of day, and make it possible to look on it with acceptance, with understanding, and without the sniggering and purience with which it has been received too often in the past. For these reasons I warmly welcome the Bill, and I greet my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) with congratulations, not unmixed with envy, in as much as I myself have on the stocks a Bill which has not yet reached this stage, though I hope very much that it will before very long.
§ 5.17 a.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
I personally feel so very strongly opposed to this Bill that I cannot with sincerity apologise to the House, or to the servants of the House, whom we must not forget, for speaking against it even at this late hour and at this late stage.
On Third Reading one must get away from details and must look at the Bill's broad issues. Firstly, I am not suggesting that the existing law, as we have it at the moment, is perfect. Nobody says that. Nobody says that if we were starting completely from scratch, with a clean slate, the law would be as it is now, or should be as it is now, but the point is that we are not starting with a clean slate, and I believe that the worst thing about this Bill is that the change which the Bill, if it is passed, will bring about in the law will produce such evil effects, because I believe that the change is bound to be interpreted as connivance in and even encouragement of what, surely, must always remain a social evil. Even the sponsors of the Bill claim that they do not wish to encourage an increase in homosexuality. That is right, is it not? If we grant them sincerity on this point we must, I think, nevertheless accuse them of very bad judgment, because surely the effect of this change in the law cannot fail to bring about what the sponsors claim they do not wish to see.
What will the effects of the Bill be if it does come into law? First, what will 1517 be its effect on the young men of the country? It will remove a taboo which has been recognised here from time immemorial. It is likely to lead to experiment and, perhaps, to corruption and scandal. I say in all sincerity that it is not fair to expose a whole generation, which faces all the bewilderment of swift social change, to these additional dangers, confusions and temptations.
Secondly, what will be its effect on homosexuals themselves? I believe that the Bill will not afford them any protection whatever from blackmail or from ostracism—unless homosexual practices are to become so widespread as to be common place. The whole argument that the Measure will remove the danger of blackmail from homosexuals is altogether misleading.
Thirdly, what will be the effect of the Bill on public opinion abroad? I submit that it can only be catastrophic. One can imagine the headlines in foreign newspapers when, or if, the Bill is passed: "Britain Votes for Homosexuality", "Parliament Passes the Queers' Charter," and so on. In a world all too ready to criticise us—and I will not make party points now—this Bill will be further evidence of Britain's degeneracy and loss of influence, and a loss, I am afraid, of individual will power. Such a Bill as this, if passed, can only encourage our enemies and those who disparage us, and can only dismay our friends.
Lastly, what will be the effect on public opinion generally in Britain itself? I believe, as other hon. Members have said, that the lobby which supports the sponsors of the Bill does not truly represent the opinion of decent and reasonable people in Britain as a whole. If the House gives the Third Reading to an obnoxious Bill like this, the people of Britain will suddenly awaken to what is being done in their name and will react very violently to it. I hope that every newspaper will pulish a full list of those who vote for the Bill, including the Ministers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I believe that every family man and woman will take note, and make their judgment accordingly.
§ 5.23 a.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for 1518 Winchester (Rear Admiral Morgan Giles) spoke of the effect abroad of the possible passing of this Measure. I can endorse what he says, because a week or two ago I was abroad and was confronted by two or three people the vein of whose conversation was, "Why is it that the British House of Commons" which is how they describe us "at this great moment in world affairs, when they have the Arabs and the Israelis at each others' throats, have right to the forefront of their domestic politics not only this Bill to legalise homosexuality, but another Measure to legalise abortion and a third relating to drugs?" Whether or not we in this House like it, those are the sort of issues that make the headlines not so much at home but abroad, and notably in countries that are not particularly favourably disposed towards us.
I find it remarkable and regrettable that the House should spend so long, and stay up so late into the following morning, on a petty and deplorable issue of this nature. I speak in condemnation of the Bill as an extension of the permissive society, which is very regrettable. I never thought that I would be in the House of Commons long enough to hear a Home Secretary congratulate the promoter and architect of such an unfortunate Measure as this.
If I were Home Secretary—and I am certain that I never will be—if that cloak of honour were to fall on my humble shoulders, I would keep quiet about such a Measure. I would say nothing about it. If it got through it would not be with my endeavours. Certainly, if it were pushed through to the Statute Book with the aid and connivance of the party of which I was a member, I should be even more ashamed. It is no use the Home Secretary and hon. Members opposite saying that this is not a party matter. This is a Labour Government Measure, and tonight we have had Labour Whips at the doors of the Lobby.
§ Mr. Farr
I will give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to intervene in a moment. He must be patient. I have sat all night listening to many other people. I was pointing out that there is no doubt that the Government decision to give time for the Bill means that it 1519 bears the stamp of Labour Party legislation.
§ Mr. Lyon
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Does he realise how false is his suggestion? I have been engaged in watching hon. Members pass through the Lobbies throughout the night. Without the assistance of his right hon. and hon. Friends, we could not have got the Closure on a number of occasions. In any case, the Tellers in support of the Bill included both Conservative and Labour Members. The whipping was done jointly by hon. Members from both parties. The hon. Member's assertion that this is a party Bill is completely spurious and a base attempt to suggest that there is party political capital to be made out of it.
§ Mr. Farr
I wish to conclude my remarks in a moment or two. I, too, want to pay tribute to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). I admire his shrewdness and skill in piloting this controversial and difficult Measure as far as this. I cannot wish him luck. I am only sorry that his obvious talents have been channelled into such an unnatural and perverse activity as piloting a wretched Measure like this through the House.
I deplore the whole of this Measure, and I am only sorry that it will probably pass tonight on its way to another place. If it comes back here, I hope that we may yet have an opportunity to prevent its enactment.
§ 5.29 a.m.
§ Mr. Percival
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) spoke in slightly deprecating terms of lamentations and despair. I have no shame in saying that I feel a sense of despair when I think of all the useful things we might have been doing with the very large amount of time which has been devoted to this miserable Measure. In deference to the Chair and to the servants of the House, I shall confine myself to just three reasons why I feel this sense of shame.
First, I despair of the fatuousness of it all. This Measure was greeted with elation. The Home Secretary is here in the early hours of the morning congratu- 1520 lating my hon. Friends. What have we done? As my right hon. Friends says, it will not mean a single prosecution less than there has been for years and years. No one that I know can remember any prosecution which has taken place in recent memory which would not still be prosecutable under the Bill, if passed.
Secondly, does anybody believe that what we have done will contribute anything to that to which we should be applying our minds, which is decreasing the amount of homosexuality? It cannot do anything useful in that direction. Nobody can say, so I do not put it any higher than that it might increase the amount of homosexuality. If it does, is it not a sad thing that we have done? Is it so wrong to feel a sense of despair that we might have done something to increase practises which all who have spoken are agreed—I cannot speak for the Leader of the House because we have not heard his views—are unpleasant and degrading, having an inherent tendency to corrupt public morals?
What have we ended up by doing? If one starts with the hypothesis that is accepted by everybody, that this is something to be discouraged because it brings great misery to the people who get hooked and because it tends to corrupt public morals, we have done nothing to reduce the number of prosecutions, we have done nothing to decrease the amount of homosexuality, but we have done something which might increase it. That gives me a slight sense of despair, and I despair at the failure of the House to secure any improvement in the contents of the Bill.
Two very interesting questions have arisen in the course of the debate. I will not go into the details of them. The first was doubt about the meaning of "in private" and the second was about the Director of Public Prosecutions. What has happened? Instead of those matters being debated in full, the promoters conceding that even they might have something to learn, they have been brushed aside. I despair that, despite all this time having been spent on the matter, no improvements have been made in the contents of the Bill.
Lastly—though when I say "lastly" it is by no means the only other feeling 1521 that I have about the matter; I say "lastly" because I am trying to be selective and I have chosen the three matters which are most prominent in my mind—I despair because there is a danger that what we have done is another step down the road to the deplorable permissive society.
There are those of us who may be called old-fashioned. So be it. "Old-fashioned" nowadays is a comment used of someone who takes a different opinion. In this context I am not afraid of being called old-fashioned. One of the tragedies of modern society is the unwillingness of the older generation to give to the younger generation the guidance to which it is entitled. I am not talking about ramming ideas down its throat or forcing it to do this, that or the other. Any parent knows that it is not practicable anyway. I am talking about the guidance to which young people are entitled which, when they receive it, they can accept or reject. This derisive attitude to another point of view is typical of the arrogance of those who promote this kind of proposition. It is extraordinary how those who advocate this kind of legislation do so in the name of tolerance, because they are the most intolerant people when it comes to other people's ideas.
One of the most priceless assets in life is a set of standards, a code of morals, or a code of conduct. A man without it is lost and wanting. At the moment, under the guise of giving freedom to young people, we are depriving them of the guidance to which they are entitled. No wonder they are mixed up. No one would deny that there are a lot of mixed up young people, and they are mixed up because they are not getting guidance.
This Bill is another step down that road. Instead of giving young people firm guidance on this subject, we are creating the impression in their minds that, even if people commit offences, they are not very serious ones and carry only small penalties. I despair of that tendency, when it is important for people to have some sort of standards by which to regulate their conduct. No one is perfect, and no one lives entirely by those standards, but people who have a code of conduct have something which is extremely useful to them on their way through life.
1522 That is another reason why I deplore this bad Bill. I shall vote against its Third Reading, and I hope that many other hon. Members will do the same.
§ 5.37 a.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I apologise for detaining the House, but before we come to a conclusion on the Bill, it might not be thought amiss if I said a word or two as one who supports the Bill and intends to vote for its Third Reading.
I might point out that I have not been whipped by anyone in support of this Measure, and it is a Bill which has twice been approved by another place and which was given a Second Reading by a very large all party majority. As one who has been in the House for some time, I am aware that it is not unprecedented for the Government of the day to make time available for a controversial Private Member's Measure, even when that Government have not approved of it. I recall that time was made available for a Bill to repeal the death penalty, introduced by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) in 1956. It is by no means unprecedented for the Government to present an opportunity of this kind.
The Bill is one which affects the criminal law. Many writers have pointed out that, throughout our history, it has been very easy to add to the criminal law, but very much harder to subtract from it, and perhaps the prolonged proceedings on this Measure give support to that view.
I believe that, rightly, the Bill humanises our criminal law, and I do not think that we need worry that other people will take it as a sign of Britain's degeneracy. I am not greatly concerned about what opinion overseas will think of it. The House of Commons is right to do what we think is proper and to pursue what we think are the right ideals for British society.
Next, we should be very chary of the argument that we must keep this criminal offence for the sake of our young people. Frankly, I do not despair of our young people in the way that some of my hon. Friends appear to. Perhaps I can claim to be as much in touch as some other hon. Members with younger people in this 1523 country, and I do not find this universal absence of standards which my hon. Friend has just postulated.
§ Mr. Percival
My right hon. Friend thought I was saying that I despaired of young people, but he could not be wider of the mark. I must have expressed myself badly. I think young people are magnificent, but what I am saying is that the older generation are letting them down by failing to give them the guidance to which they are entitled.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I think there may well be times when it is desirable to listen to what younger people have to say, and not only to be concerned with giving them guidance.
I do not find this absence of standards. I cannot help thinking that one of the most important standards anyone can have is regard for maturity. Maturity was defined by Dr. Carstairs in his Reith Lectures as being possessed by someone with a realistic grasp of his environment, a convinced sense of his personal identity, and a real ability to form satisfying relationships with other people. This is
|Division No. 426.]||AYES||[5.44 a.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Panned, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Albu, Austen||Hooley, Frank||Pardoe, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Allen, Seholefield||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Archer, Peter||Huckfield, L.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Barnes, Michael||Hunt, John||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Booth, Albert||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Jeger, Mrs.Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)||Ryan, John|
|Brooks, Edwin||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Cant, R. B.||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Judd, Frank||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Chapman, Donald||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Crawahaw, Richard||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kirk, Peter||Stonehouse, John|
|Dell, Edmund||Longden, Gilbert||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Luard, Evan||Swinger, Stephen|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lubbock, Eric||Taverns, Dick|
|Ellis, John||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|English, Michael||MacDermot, Niall||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Ensor, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Walters, Dennis|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mackintosh, John P.||Whitaker, Ben|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||McNamara, J. Kevin||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Marquand, David||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mendeleon, J. J.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford&Stone)||Mikardo, Ian||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Gardner, Tony||Montgomery, Fergus||Worsley, Marcus|
|Ginsburg, David||Newens, Stan||Yates, Victor|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Hamling, William||Orme, Stanley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Haseldine, Norman||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Mr. Eric G. Varley and|
|Mr. Ian Gilmour.|
§ something which I think young people must find for themselves.
§ I cannot see anything in this Bill that will make it harder for young people in this country to discover for themselves ideals and standards with which they can truly feel identified.
§ The other point I would make—and I have not heard it made by any other hon. Member during the proceedings on this Bill—is this; think how much more we know today about the problems of homosexuality—and indeed about human love generally—than was known when this first became a criminal offence.
§ I believe we are quite right to feel that the time has come to make this change in the criminal law, and I would say to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) that I shall not mind at all if my name is taken when we go into the Lobby to vote on this Bill.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 99, Noes 14.
|Cordle, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Farr, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Sir Charles Taylor and|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Percival, Ian||Mr. James Allason.|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.