HC Deb 23 June 1967 vol 748 cc2115-55

Anyone who indulges in activities tending to promote acts of homosexuality between consenting adults through the publication of lists of names and addresses of known homosexuals, or otherwise, shall be guilty of a criminal offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of five years or to a fine of £5,000.—[Sir C. Osborne.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir Cyril Osborne (Louth)

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

I beg the indulgence of the House, Mr. Speaker, because I have never done this before and I feel a little nervous about it. I wonder if you would allow me for a moment to remind the House of the condition of our country as the background for my objection to the Bill and my wish to strengthen it.

The criminal statistics issued last year—a new lot are due—show that, over the last 30 years, the number of crimes known to the police has increased from 283,000 to 1,192,000—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman so early, but we cannot discuss the general state of crime in the country or the Bill itself on this Amendment. The hon. Gentleman must talk about his new Clause.

Sir C. Osborne

I am much obliged for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. In my Clause, I embody a new principle of punishment in that I suggest that, instead of men being sent automatically to prison if they are convicted, the courts should have the option to fine them, a maximum in this case of £5,000. I thought that it was germane to my point to consider the state of the country from that point of view, and whether it is wise automatically to send men to prison for committing this type of offence. I hope that you will allow me to develop this, because I think that it is wrong to send men to prison automatically without the courts having the option of an alternative punishment.

I am glad to see the Home Secretary present this morning, because he will know the name of Sir Alec Paterson, the great prison reformer. After the first war, I served and worked with Alec Paterson in the Toc H movement and became a prison visitor. For many years I was a regular visitor at Leicester Prison. The one thing that Alec Paterson taught me above all others was that a man should never be sent to prison on a first offence if it could be helped, that the threat of prison should be kept over his head to deter him, but that, wherever possible, he should never be sent to prison on his first conviction. That was the experience which I gained from a man who is acknowledged to be the greatest prison reformer of the modern age.

I am supported in my plea by the statistics recently published by the Home Office on the state of our prisons. I should have thought that it was germane to my argument to consider the state of our prisons today, where the Bill proposes to send men if they are found guilty of this type of offence. The daily average population in our prisons has risen from 29,000 in 1964 to 35,000 at the present time, and the Home Office say that, by the end of the year, it will have reached 39,000. That is an alarming figure, and it seems crazy to propose in the Bill to send more men to an already overcrowded prison system.

The Home Secretary's Report also says that the annual prison intake is now 90,000, most of whom are short-term, quick- turnover prisoners, the very type that Alec Paterson taught me all those years ago should never be sent to prison. That is what I want to avoid, if I possibly can.

The House knows that the Home Secretary is doing his best to improve the situation in our prisons by new buildings and new facilities, but the Home Office itself has agreed that, in three years, the increase in crime will be so great that even the new facilities which the Home Secretary is providing will not be adequate to meet the demand. It is against that danger that I am protesting and arguing that men should not automatically be sent to prison. The Home Secretary will know from his own figures that two out of every three offenders are sentenced to less than six months. To increase that number by sending to prison men who are found guilty of homosexual acts under this Bill seems mad beyond words.

It has been recommended by a group of reformers that one step towards keeping short-term prisoners out of prison altogether is to increase the severity of fines. I understand that this is to be incorporated in the new legislation now before Parliament. I am proposing that we should do it in this Bill now, and that is why I suggest that we should include the alternative punishment of a fine.

What worries me so much is the publication of lists of possible and willing homosexuals. The Home Secretary may say that this danger does not exist. I do not believe it. I am certain that it exists, and I believe that this Bill will make homosexual practices more respectable, giving them, as it were, the approval of the Government and will tend to increase them just among the students and young men who are most subject to the dangers. I am, therefore, very frightened, and that is why I wish to make a serious punishable offence the publication of lists of men who are willing to indulge in these exercises.

If it is in order—I trust that it is—I shall now refer to a new Clause which appeared on yesterday's Notice Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), the co-father of the Bill. That new Clause has now been withdrawn, but it is germane to what I am trying to argue. It would provide that it shall not be an offence"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman has withdrawn his new Clause, we cannot discuss it on the new Clause now before the House.

Sir C. Osborne

It is the idea behind it that I am trying to discuss, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

My hon. Friend should discuss his own Clause.

Mr. Speaker

I do not wish in any way to cramp debate, but debate must be in order. The hon. Gentleman is moving the Second Reading of new Clause No. 2.

Sir C. Osborne

It is against the background of the dangers that I am recommending this new Clause, Mr. Speaker, and I am trying to show what the dangers are. One of those dangers was shown by the new Clause in the name of my hon. Friend which appeared on yesterday's Notice Paper. Surely, I am entitled to show that. I want only one phrase from it, …it shall not be an offence"— I ask the House to note the words, "not be an offence"— to conspire to commit or to aid, abet, counsel, procure"— and "procure" has a nasty dirty smell about it— command or attempt the commission of a homosexual act… There are people in this country who do not believe that it is a crime to do those things, and the evidence was on the Notice Paper only yesterday. It is against that that my soul revolts—that they can procure and encourage men to do it, and, what was more alarming—no wonder that my hon. Friend has withdrawn the Clause—there was no limit of age in it at all.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to take notice of the Chair. He must speak to his new Clause.

Sir C. Osborne

I am much obliged for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I feel very deeply on this matter. In support of what I am saying, I had many letters in my post this morning, and I ask your indulgence in allowing me to read just one. It came from a doctor—I am prepared to give his name to the Home Secretary, though, obviously, I should not give it now—and this is what he wrote: Just a line to wish you success in your efforts to get Leo Abse's Bill for spreading filth chucked out tomorrow".

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not in order.

Sir C. Osborne

Is it not?

Mr. Speaker

No, it is not. The hon. Gentleman must abide by the rules of the House. He will have various opportunities to make various objections to various parts of the Bill and to the Bill as a whole at various stages, but he must now link what he has to say to the specific new Clause before the House. He knows that this is so.

Sir C. Osborne

I did say at the outset that I have never done this before and I am quite new to it.

Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)

After 22 years.

Sir C. Osborne

I have never moved a new Clause before.

11.15 a.m.

Since I cannot say more, I commend the new Clause to the House. It is senseless automatically to send men to prison for committing this type of crime. It is madness to send them when the prisons are already overcrowded. It is never too early to state the truth. The Home Office has told us that there are 9,000 men in prison at present living two or, more likely, three in a cell designed for only one. To send more men to prison in these conditions would be the height of folly. This is why I urge that the new Clause be adopted and that the courts be given power to impose a fine of up to £5,000. I hope that I shall have the support of my hon. Friends.

Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)

In the course of 17 years in the House, I have never before addressed myself to any issue concerned with homosexuality or with prison reform. I have regarded these matters from a Parliamentary point of view as very much outside my Parliamentary interests. But this is no reason why I should not have strong views on both aspects of the matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) has addressed himself.

I support the new Clause because, at the last General Election, in March, 1966, contesting a constituency which I had not previously contested though I had lived in it for 15 years or more, I was extremely surprised to find that at public meetings, many of the 60 public meetings I addressed in that General Election campaign, I was being questioned on my attitude to this odious topic of homosexuality. I declared myself as being trenchantly against Wolfenden, and I am, therefore, in favour of this Clause.

First, I wish to say something about prisons. Again, I have no special knowledge of prisons. I was a strong supporter of my then right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, now Lord Butler, in all he tried to do during his years at the Home Office in prison reform matters and in combating the rise of serious crime, notably crimes of violence, all of which led me to a casual interest—[Interruption.]—Does the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) wish to intervene? I readily give way to him if he does. On the other hand, if he is to remain seated, perhaps he will not interrupt me from a sedentary position.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Do not be so pompous.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) wish to intervene?

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a debate, and temper does no good.

Sir G. Nabarro

I am grateful for your support, Mr. Speaker. I have strong views in this matter. I have already declared very truthfully, honestly and candidly that I have never attempted to address myself before to this odious topic in the House of Commons. Now I feel constrained to do so because of the number of representations made to me by my constituents, and I shall not be interrupted frivolously or trivially—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must come to the Clause.

Sir G. Nabarro

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am merely putting in his correct place the hon. Member for Walton. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) wishes to intervene he must seek to do so by rising.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the hon. Member wish to intervene?

Mr. Heffer

Get on with it.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the hon. Member wish to intervene?

Mr. Heifer

I was intervening because of an unwarranted attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman).

Mr. Speaker

An intervention must be Parliamentary.

Sir G. Nabarro

I am grateful to you for your protection, Mr. Speaker, and I am delighted to silence the hon. Member.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must not provoke further interruption. He must get on to the new Clause.

Sir G. Nabarro

I now turn to the question of conditions in our prisons, which are a cause of grave concern today. Crime is increasing. The number of men sentenced to prison is increasing. Overcrowding in prisons is not being abated. I therefore strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) in saying that any man or woman with a social conscience should always support the view that a man should not be sent to prison, especially in the early stages of offences, and that prison sentences should be avoided as largely as possible.

In my judgment the alternative of a stiff fine is a very valid and good one. I do not pretend to know whether a maximum fine of £5,000 is correct; it may be that £1,000 is the correct figure. That question can be dealt with by Amendment at a later stage. What I am sure of is that the principle of the new Clause, namely, that a stiff fine should be substituted as largely as possible for a prison sentence, is a good suggestion, and one that ought to command majority support in the House.

I now touch upon a very delicate matter within the compass of the Clause. The most serious aspect of overcrowding in prisons is the incentive that it gives to buggery and homosexuality. No hon. Member could deny that. Clause 3 provides that: The maximum punishment which may be imposed on conviction on indictment of a man for buggery with another man of or over the age of sixteen shall and then the subsection continues with the details of the sentence. It is this aspect that troubles me very deeply. Overcrowding in prisons is indubitably an incentive to this class of sexual offence. That is why I intervene to ask, seriously and sincerely, that the Home Secretary should accept the principle that fines are always preferable to prison sentences. This is what my hon. Friends and I are endeavouring to do by way of the new Clause.

I apologise for having been involved in controversy with hon. Members opposite at this early stage, Mr. Speaker, and I repeat that I have intervened only because I have long held sincere and deep convictions on this issue, although I have never attempted to speak on it before. This morning, therefore, I speak in the House with the greatest deference and timidity, in this context.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

The reason why I have put my name to the proposed new Clause is, first, that I believe—whatever anyone may say to the contrary —that people who indulge in this filthy business do not confine it to themselves but are great proselytisers, and are always trying to attract other people, especially other younger men, into this filthy business. Last week I appeared on a B.B.C.2 programme, and anyone who saw it will remember the statement by the man who said that he regularly comes to public lavatories in London to pick up other men. If the Bill goes through, unless something is done to deal with those who seek to put one in touch with another, some enterprising person will extend the activities in which he is already indulging.

I want to quote to the House from a magazine which contains some rather interesting advertisements. The magazine circulates at this moment. One advertisement says: Are you a gay bachelor, interested in male only activities? I am forming a social club in London. Send stamped addressed envelope for details. Cosy lodgings with meals available. That is only one of a number of such advertisements appearing in this magazine.

We might say that there was not too much to worry about if this magazine had a private circulation among certain people, who had to make some sort of application in order to receive it, but this is not the case. I received the magazine from a constituent, and in his letter to me he said that he had received it completely unsolicited. This is obviously the sort of thing which has a wide circulation.

Most of the advertisements in the magazine deal with advertisements for normal heterosexual activities, although some of those are rather peculiar. I am trying to show that even at this moment, when the homosexual act is illegal, organisations exist which feel completely free to put this sort of advertisement into a booklet which does not have a limited circulation but is sent, unsolicited, to people all over the country. My constituent was naturally incensed that this sort of publication should have been sent to him.

It may be that the publication itself is in breach of the law, and after this debate I shall send it to the Home Secretary to ask his advice whether it is allowed by law. But the important thing is that we should be certain that this sort of activity is not indulged in if the Bill comes into force.

The second method of advertising these practices is by way of the advertisement panels which are usually seen outside newsagents' shops. I must admit that in the recent past many of those have disappeared, but they have not completely disappeared. One has only to go to the area just off Piccadilly Circus to see the type of advertisement panel which seeks to advertise all sorts of practices—[Interruption.]

Sir G. Nabarro

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, will you please appeal to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) not to conduct their conversation in such loud voices as to prevent me from hearing what my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) is saying?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have no difficulty in hearing the hon. Member, in spite of the conversation, but if conversations are conducted in the House, they ought to be very quiet.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. Mawby

Very few people complain about being unable to listen to my speeches. I appreciate, however, that the committee meeting is still continuing.

I was talking about advertisement panels, which to some extent have disappeared, but there is one very prominent one just off Piccadilly Circus which seeks to put people in touch with one another. Clause 5 is the only one which I can see which would catch that type of person, for living either wholly or partly on immoral earnings, the earnings by prostitution of another man. But even that Clause refers to a person who "knowingly" lives wholly or in part on such earnings and presumably the people responsible for these hoardings feel satisfied that they could prove to the courts' satisfaction that they did know that by accepting that type of advertisement they were living partly on the earnings of prostitution. Nevertheless, one has only to read the type of advertisement there and to see the group of men surrounding the panel day and night to know exactly what the situation is.

I do not want to see those panels enabled to proliferate and used mainly for putting homosexuals in touch with one another. Whatever we may say, the general public consider this an abomination, so much so that they are not prepared to talk about it and cannot understand why others do. Many of my constituents ask me why Parliament should be so obsessed with this subject. I will not pursue that any further, lest I get out of order.

Certainly, whatever line we may take about leading public opinion, we must also accept that in large part we should mirror public opinion as well. If not, we shall go so far in front that the general public will start electing other leaders. This is terribly important—

Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)

What evidence has the hon. Member of public opinion? My impression is precisely the reverse: I believe that public opinion is strongly behind this Measure—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are interested in public opinion at the moment only as it relates to this Amendment.

Mr. Mawby

I do not want to be drawn to stray out of order as I nearly did a few moment ago.

There are different opinions among hon. Members about whether the Bill is good or bad, but, if we are to have it, the new Clause is essential, as we must ensure that any new activities do not impinge upon the public consciousness, in other words that the public should be protected from any great upsurge. I would say to the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Dr. Gray) that I have no evidence to suggest that there will be a big upsurge, but on the other hand he has none to suggest that there will not be. The Clause is therefore necessary to the Bill if it is to be passed, and I support it.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

I rise only because I fear that there is a danger of the debate becoming ragged. The new Clause has a point which is worth discussing, although I will couch my speech interrogatively, because I am not sure that I know the answer.

The Clause is concerned with the so-called directory of addresses, which is well known to be part of the apparatus of professional prostitution, certainly in female cases and, I would suppose, also in male cases. What is the status of the directory in law if the Bill is passed in its present form? Is this new Clause necessary to prevent the directory? I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department present, because my recollection is—he will correct me if I am wrong—that there was a case in recent years dealing with a female directory of this kind in which it was held to be an illegal activity, although I cannot remember why.

It obviously was not a brothel, and I should not have thought that it would be obscene to publish a number of names and addresses. Could the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what the situation is as regards such a directory under the present law and the extent to which the new Clause would improve the Bill? This is an important point and one which deserves consideration. I ask simply for the Government's view, with their able team of advisers, on this position.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Dick Taverne)

Before I come to the question posed by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I will deal with what has already been said. We share of course the aim of the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), supported by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), to keep people out of prison, but the new Clause will not have that effect, and may result in sending more people to gaol whom no one would wish to see there.

On fines, the Clause is not clear whether this is to be an indictable or a summary offence, but if the former, there is no need to specify fines because they can be imposed without limit on any indictable offence.

I must advise the House that the meaning of the Clause is not clear and that it might well have consequences which are unintended and undesirable. It refers to anyone …who indulges in activities tending to promote acts of homosexuality …through …publication …or otherwise … This wording is wide and vague enough to cover any activity which might bring homosexuals together—

Sir C. Osborne

That is the intention.

Mr. Taverne

It might, therefore, result in the owner of a club where several homosexuals happened to meet being considered to be "indulging" in activities "tending" to the promotion of homosexual acts or, what is worse, might make illegal the activities of bona fide organisations set up to assist homosexuals to overcome their problems. It could, therefore, easily have directly the opposite effect to what I am sure the hon. Gentleman intends. I cannot advise the House to accept the new Clause, which would have unfortunate effects.

On the question of the publication of lists, I understand that the law in relation to homosexual lists would be the same as for lists of prostitutes. I believe that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right: there was the "Ladies' Directory" case recently, which was based, I believe, on an offence of a conspiracy to corrupt public morals. The basis was not all that clear to everyone and it seems to be an example of judge-made law. Certainly the House of Lords decision has laid down an offence which would cover the publication of lists.

In general, I would say to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone that the question of conspiracy to commit moral offences is a difficult one, and the Criminal Law Revision Committee is at present looking at it.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), in 22 years I have never spoken on this subject. However, a few days ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) showed me the magazine to which he has referred and, as a result, I wish to say a few words about this Clause.

I recognise that Lord Butler and the present Home Secretary are both very enlightened men who have done a great deal to improve conditions in prisons and worked hard in the cause of criminal reform. But I am alarmed about this situation. In correspondence which I have received from constituents, only two have given any measure of support to the Bill, whereas I can say quite honestly that there are thousands who take the opposite view.

When my hon. Friend showed me the magazine—and I do not know its circulation—he said that he proposed to send it to the Home Secretary. I hope that he will do so, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say what he proposes to do about it. If such publications are freely circulated, I am quite certain that young men will become involved. I do not care what grown men do together in their own homes. That is their business. But I am concerned about the youth of the country.

The problem does not arise solely from this sort of magazine. One frequently sees cleverly worded advertisements in the personal columns of leading newspapers which are designed to bring men together.

I have the impression that the Under-Secretary of State agrees that there is substance in the Amendment—

Mr. Taverne indicated dissent.

Sir A. V. Harvey

At any rate, I thought that he implied that—

Mr. Taverne

I am sorry if I misled the House. I thought I said that the mischief aimed at, in so far as there might be publication of lists, is already covered by the "Ladies Directory" case, and I also said that the substance of the Clause would have the undesirable effect of dealing with people who were bringing homosexuals together even though there was no intention of committing homosexual acts.

11.45 p.m.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If the hon. and learned Gentleman wants the support of the House, he must go out of his way to meet what my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) is trying to do. I agree that Parliament has to give a lead, but the question arises how far that lead should go. With all the expertise available to the Home Secretary, I should have thought that some assurance could be given. However, we have not had that assurance.

I am not happy about the situation, otherwise I should not have intervened in this debate. As I say, I have not spoken on this subject before, but I am alarmed at what may happen as the years go by. We are here to protect our young people. I recognise that we may be behind European countries in some respects. By all means, let us catch up with them, but let us have some safeguard for our young people. It is imperative that Members of Parliament should do that, and I hope that, by means of this Clause, we shall bring it about.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) and to the House for not being present when the Clause was introduced. It is a good Clause, so far as it goes.

It is no answer for the Home Office to say that this sort of activity will be covered by the "Ladies' Directory" case, because that case had to go to the House of Lords before the facts were decided. I should not like that to happen under this Bill, should it become law.

I also disagree with the Home Office when it is suggested that those who run institutions for the care and correction of this type of offender might find themselves affected by the provisions of the Clause. One thing which that type of place does not do is to publish the names and addresses of those whom it is treating. Quite rightly, the first element is secrecy. Therefore, I must cross swords with the Under-Secretary of State about that statement.

The Clause seeks to remove one part of the commercial element of this practice, be it desirable or undesirable. If I went further into that subject, Mr. Speaker, you would be quite right in calling me to order. It deals with the activities of those who seek to make money out of the vices of others, and it covers all forms of sexual vice.

Do not let us shut our eyes to such matters. They exist, and there is money in them. To attract people together in order to make the money, it is necessary to advertise where such services can be obtained. If the Bill passes into law without this Clause, it may be that we shall encourage commercial vice. I hope sincerely that the House will decide to incorporate the Clause in the Bill. It will prevent ordinary citizens being offended by seeing advertisements of the kind which my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) has read out and having lists sent to them of addresses where such services can be obtained.

I hope that those promoting the Bill will look carefully at the facts and allow the Clause to be added to the Bill.

Sir Frank Pearson (Clitheroe)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), I have not taken any very close interest in this type of legislation in the past. However, since the Bill passed through its Committee stage, there has been a rising wave of apprehension about the form in which it is proceeding on its legislative path.

I welcome this opportunity of giving the fullest support to the new Clause. However, the Under-Secretary of State appears to have missed the main heart of the matter, which is that in a subject such as the one we are dealing with in this Bill it is vital that legislation should contain provisions which will check the course of those who set out to exploit the weaknesses of their fellow men. Already in this debate we have had sufficient evidence, particularly that quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), that there are people who set out with a commercial end in view to exploit these very weak- nesses. I ask the Under-Secretary to agree in principle that the dangers inherent in the Bill as it is at present drafted are such that some Clause is necessary to check the activities of such people.

Reading through the opening Clauses of the Bill this morning, I was extremely shocked and disturbed with the whole atmosphere that it conjures up. If proof were necessary that a provision of this nature should be incorporated in the Bill, I would direct attention to the first Clause. The promoters of the Bill have found it necessary to put in a specific provision dealing with those who perform these acts in public lavatories. That immediately brings the House face to face with the subject matter with which we are dealing—the weaknesses and sordidity that surrounds this subject. In this connection, it is interesting to note the provision in Clause 1(3) which—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot now debate the other parts of the Bill.

Sir Frank Pearson

I was trying to show that the atmosphere surrounding this subject is such that the promoters of the Bill must carefully consider the need to provide a provision in terms analogous to the new Clause.

It has been found necessary to produce a provision which protects the severely abnormal. What about the others; those who are not severely abnormal but are, nevertheless, abnormal? Should not they receive this protection? What about the mentally ill and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resist the temptation to debate other parts of the Bill. He must confine his remarks to the new Clause.

Sir Frank Pearson

Having tried to give the background against which we are operating, I will, Mr. Speaker, come to the new Clause.

The question of the publication of lists for the propagation of sexual acts has been mentioned, but this is only part of the matter. There are one hundred and one other processes which could be exploited commercially if the Bill is passed in its present form. Perhaps the case referred to, about the publication of lists, would merely come under a charge of living on immoral earnings, but that is an extremely vague and difficult case to prove. Something far more specific is necessary.

Reference has been made to Clause 5, although here again the sanctions are ill defined and not of sufficient strength to prevent the difficulties which many of my hon. Friends rightly envisage as flowing from the Bill from occurring. It may be said that the fine of £5,000 mentioned in the new Clause is excessive. Considering the money that is to be obtained in London through vice—gaming clubs and all the other paraphernalia—I do not believe that £5,000 would be an unjustified fine in this case.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will consider the genuine and basic implications of the new Clause. Our proposal has nothing to do with whether or not one accepts the principle of the Bill. Perhaps the homosexual act should never have been made illegal. Whatever one's views about that, it is a different matter when one comes to reverse the law, particularly in the moral atmosphere existing in the country to-day. If the promoters of the Bill are to carry out the duties which rest on their shoulders, they must tackle the question of dealing with those who set out commercially to exploit the homosexual act. I urge the Under-Secretary to think again.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

Most people in Britain have found the Bill to be distasteful. I believe that most of them would find it even more distasteful when they realise the necessity of tabling a new Clause of this kind. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) proved the necessity of having this provision. He mentioned the publication of lists. I wonder if he has the date of publication of the list to which he referred. I presume that it was published recently and that it is still in circulation.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) mentioned that the "Ladies Directory" was in existence for some time before it was finally suppressed, and even then the case had to go to the House of Lords. Although the Under-Secretary said that documents of this kind would be suppressed in any case, under a different section of the law, how long must we wait for that to happen and how much damage will be done in the meantime to young people?

If lists of this kind are published I can see an appalling opening for blackmail. Someone may read one of these advertisements or lists and make an appointment. Nothing may take place, but the mere fact that the man or boy has replied to the advertisement or has appeared at the address given in the advertisement may enable the person who inserted the advertisement to say, "If you give me a certain sum of money I will not take the matter further"—not that the money would prevent him from going to the police, since I do not believe that even in the past that was the side of blackmail which was so dangerous, but that it would prevent him from going to his victim's employer or commanding officer.

These types of list could lead to appalling blackmail. It is, therefore, right to have a new Clause of this type, to ensure that the matter is specifically defined. Otherwise these lists may go on being published, doing damage until they are finally suppressed by the law. Only by acting now will we ensure that this type of prosecution will be quicker and more effective.

Like my hon. Friends, I was dissatisfied with the Under-Secretary's comment. He did not give serious consideration to the importance of the new Clause. I urge him to consider the matter again. This is an extremely serious issue which may easily involve a new form of blackmail.

Mr. Ian Percival (Southport)

Like several of my hon. Friends, this is the first time that I have spoken in the House in any debate on this subject. Having followed with interest what has been said on this matter, I have done my best to comprehend what the promoters of the Bill have in mind in this legislation. However, this is the first time I have spoken on the subject and I speak now for two reasons: first, because I urge on the House in general, and the Under-Secretary in particular, to accept that we are discussing a vitally important point, and, secondly, because although the reasoning of that point has been made by my hon. Friends, it appears to have made no impression on the Under-Secretary.

Instead, the Home Office has merely given a short answer which we are supposed to accept. I know of only one way in which hon. Members can show their strength of feeling, and that is for those of us who feel strongly about the subject to say so. That is why I rise, despite the strong and convincing speeches of my hon. Friends; and I will try to avoid repeating what they have said.

The Under-Secretary gave two reasons why the new Clause was not desirable. The first was because it was too wide. He gave two reasons for that. The first is that it might catch the promoter of the club who catered for homosexuals. I hope to goodness that it would. If it did that, it is a further good reason for having the new Clause. The second category of those of whom he spoke, those who seek to help homosexuals, is a different matter altogether. But for the Under-Secretary to say something that even by implication suggests that a man who opens a club in order to bring together people for the purpose of buggery —and that is what the Bill deals with—merely demonstrates the necessity of the new Clause—

12 noon.

Mr. Taverne

I did not say that one was not concerned with the homosexual club. I said there could be cases in which those who promoted clubs in which there were homosexuals, and in which homosexuals came together, even though there was not the intention of the commission of homosexual acts, might be prosecuted.

Mr. Percival

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. and learned Gentleman. I am glad to be able to infer from what he has said that he would like to see the case to which I was referring be the subject of criminal prosecution—

Mr. Taverne indicated dissent.

Mr. Percival

The hon. and learned Gentleman shows his disagreement, so I do not know what difference his intervention makes. He appears to indicate that he dissents from my proposition that a person running a club designed to bring homosexuals together should not be subject to prosecution. I say that he should be subject to prosecution, and if the Bill does not make that an offence it is a thoroughly bad Bill.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-port (Mr. Percival) cannot be saying that a club for homosexuals for social purposes should be prosecuted. It should be prosecuted only if it exists to promote sexual relations, which is quite a different point.

Mr. Percival

These niceties do nothing to put my mind at rest. Any hon. Member who is prepared to face the reality knows quite well that there are plenty of people in this country who will open a club for the purpose of making money out of the misfortunes of others—and I now put the basis of homosexual acts on the most charitable footing and refer to making money out of the weaknesses of others. There will be people who will set up clubs for that purpose, and it is closing one's eyes to reality to say that these things will not happen.

The House has seen this kind of thing enough to know that it must be provided against, and I think that it would be a great deal more to the credit of the promoters of the Bill if they would face the facts and say, "We want to protect the poor misguided person who is just messing about in private but not doing any great harm, but we want just as much as anyone else to stop the man who seeks to make money out of depravity, weakness and disgusting conduct."

I do not think that the Under-Secretary's correction of what I said matters in the slightest, because he went on to disagree that even the case I was talking about should be stopped but, as a matter of courtesy, I will deal with the question.

Club proprietors must in future be very careful to see that they do nothing tending to promote acts of homosexuality. It is that with which the Clause deals. There is only one way to make them careful, and that is to create an offence. Everyone will then know the position. The courts know how to distinguish the person who is promoting this sort of thing from the person who has had it merely foisted on him. It is a problem with which the courts are well conversant. But we should make certain of catching the person who should be caught.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's second argument, namely, that it might catch those charitable bodies which exist to help the weak is ludicrous—quite ludicrous—and I do not think that I need say any more about it—

Sir G. Nabarro

Oh, yes—do go on.

Mr. Percival

I will not say much more, because I think it is so ludicrous. The point is that the courts are well able to distinguish between the person who would be committing an offence under this Clause and the person charitably helping the weak.

What bothers me is that a point of law was just shrugged off on the basis that the House of Lords case, the name of which escapes me for the moment, would cover this aspect, but it would not. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) raised the question, and I am much obliged to him for having done so as it gave us the opportunity to hear the answer and to consider it. Having considered both question and answer, the answer seems to me to be wholly unsatisfactory.

That case was decided on the grounds that what was done there was something which had a tendency to corrupt public morals. What we are talking about now is something done to promote homosexual activities, which would not be an offence because of the provisions of the Bill. How could they possibly be described as being something tending to corrupt public morals? If Parliament one day says, "It is all right. It can be done in private between consenting adults", and then someone publishes a list of those coming within that category, how can that be said to be tending to corrupt public morals? Parliament would have just said, if not expressly then by implication, that it did not corrupt public morals so it could be done. It is a very bad argument.

The position is clear, but even if it is not quite as clear as I think, I say without hesitation that, at the lowest, it must be extremely doubtful whether the Bill would touch the activities referred to in the new Clause at all. That being so, we must not leave the position so vague, and I should be much more impressed, and much more liable to pay attention to the promoters of the Bill, if they were to say that they were willing to recognise this plain and obvious fact.

It is not good enough to say that they will rely on a House of Lords decision about something quite different, which involves considerations that we can see are quite different, and which any lawyer can say is plainly distinguishable. We should not rely on such a tenuous possibility when we have a simple opportunity of putting in the Bill what we want, and making it clear from the word "go" that it will be an offence—and, what is more, a serious offence—to indulge in the activity of bringing together these people.

I owe it to the House to say why I regard this as being so important—I think that this was the thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) had in mind, and I seek to profit from your guidance to him, Mr. Speaker. When talking about stopping something by making it a criminal offence it is necessary to pause and consider what one is trying to stop. For that purpose, one must bear in mind that what one is stopping here is the promoting of homosexual activities. It is necessary to remember what homosexual activities are. Under this Bill, homosexual activities include what has for centuries been called the abominable offence of buggery. The more I see of the progress of the Bill, the more I wonder whether the promoters really know what it is—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman is going outside my Ruling. He must come back into order.

Mr. Percival

I am not seeking to challenge your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but seeking your advice on where I am out of order. The point I am seeking to make, and its relevance, is that if one were seeking to prevent someone treading on a fly, that is one thing, or if one were attempting to stop someone taking another person's handkerchief, that is another matter, but if one is seeking to prevent someone promoting buggery it is quite another matter. That is the relevance of the importance of making a new criminal offence. If I am out of order, Mr. Speaker, you will tell me, but I have nearly done on this.

Every jury which is directed by a judge is told in simple terms what that offence is, because people do not know what it is and they will not ask about it. I would tell this House what it is if it were not for the fact that there are young people in the Gallery. The reason why I will not tell the House what it is when there are young people in the Gallery is that that one offence is so utterly disgusting and degrading that I do not wish to give details of it in public, here or anywhere else. Let nobody be in any doubt, however, on that offence, which comes within the category of homosexuality, of the disgusting nature of—

Mr. Speaker

Order. These statements would be in order at some other stage of the Bill, but not on the new Clause.

Mr. Percival

I was hoping, Mr. Speaker, that my last sentence would bring me back within your purview and, I hope, pleasure.

Considerations of that sort make me believe that it is vital to stop people who are willing to make money out of promoting those activities. It is because some of those activities are so degrading and disgusting that we must stop them. The new Clause offers the way of doing it on a perfectly simple, fair basis. Unless the promoters of the Bill are willing to accept even this, I for one shall regard all their actions hereafter with the gravest suspicion.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

I support what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) has said. He has contributed a great deal to our short discusion on the new Clause. I remind my hon. and learned Friend that if he feels that the House should know all the facts at which he hinted, he has only to spy strangers and get the Galleries cleared, and then continue with his speech.

I wish particularly to refer to the interjection by the Under-Scretary of State. It is a great pity that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to have grasped the purpose of the Clause. We were delighted to see his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary present for a short time at the beginning of this debate, and as the Under-Secretary appears to have a very strange view of the purpose behind the Clause, we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will return before we terminate discussion on it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) referred to the dan- gers of blackmail in connection with the Clause. While that danger is one of which many hon. Members, on both sides, take full cognisance, we have to remember that there is a flaw in the argument. If the act of homosexuality becomes a recognised and acceptable act, as some would seek to have it through this wretched Bill, the response to the threat of blackmail by those concerned will not be as ready and as quick as it is today when this offence is still without the law.

Other hon. Members have referred to the correspondence which they have received from constituents. I know that Parliament is supposed to be a path-maker and an opinion-maker and to lead the way in these and other matters. Nevertheless, it is not right or proper that Members of Parliament should consistently disregard the advice which they receive from constituents, on this or any other topic.

I can say quite truthfully that I have not received one letter in support of the Bill but I have had many against it from my constituents.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member cannot, on the new Clause, discuss the attitude of himself or the public to the Bill in general. There will be other opportunities for that.

Mr. Farr

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your guidance.

It seems to me that the Clause seeks to curtail the spread of this specific act of homosexuality. Surely, hon. Members, on both sides of the House of Commons, should support the new Clause on that ground alone. We do not wish to encourage the spread of this wrongful practice. Surely, it is our duty to seek to curtail it, as would the Clause put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne).

12.15 p.m.

My hon. Friend referred in his opening remarks to the possibility of the contamination of prisoners who are put into prison as a result of an offence committed under the Bill and come into contact with other prisoners. There are very few prisons with single-cell facilities for prisoners. The other day, I had the opportunity of going round what is, perhaps, our newest prison, in my constituency at Gartree, in Leicestershire, which houses 400 or 450 prisoners, who enjoy single-cell facilities. It is one of our very few prisons where prisoners do not have to share a cell with other prisoners. They are, therefore, not quite as liable to contamination from homosexuals on that account.

The real drawback at Gartree, however, as at other prisons, is that there is not sufficient work for the prisoners to do. I hope that the Under-Secretary is listening, because I have written to one of his colleagues on this matter. Out of 130 prisoners in one cell block, there is work for only one-third of them. There is no work for the others, who are free to intermingle in their cell block during working hours with literally nothing to do.

Sir A. V. Harvey

A holiday.

Mr. Farr

Exactly, It is in conditions of that sort, whether prisoners have to share a cell or not, that a disease—I call it that advisedly—such as homosexuality could flourish.

This is a matter which should concern every hon. Member in whose constituency there is a prison. If an ordinary person meets a homosexual in the course of a social life, the ordinary person can go elsewhere, but a prisoner cannot. He is confined within the prison walls. He may be unfortunate enough to be confined within the cell block and even more unfortunate in being confined to the occupancy of the same cell as a homosexual.

The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth concerning the desirability of introducing a fine as an alternative to imprisonment is worthy of the deepest consideration by those who are responsible for promoting the Bill, in the hope that they will seek to include it in this Measure.

I should like to know from the Under-Secretary what consultations the promoters of the Bill have had with his advisers on this topic. Have they consulted the prison authorities concerning the penalties listed in Clause 3? Can the hon. and learned Gentleman also inform the. House whether, if the Bill is enacted without this worthy new Clause, prisoners who are committed as a result of an offence committed under Clause 3 will be sent to special prisons for housing that type of sufferer or will be spread among the various prisons?

I wholeheartedly support the new Clause. Simply because a man has made a mistake and enters prison for an offence of some kind is no reason why we should wash our hands of him. We should take cognisance of the social conditions under which he has to live and the inmates of the prisons who will come flocking in if the new Clause is not accepted. If the Bill proceeds further, the new Clause should be part of it.

Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be willing to add something to the rather inadequate information which he has so far given to the House. My attitude to the Clause might well be determined one way or the other according to the nature of the further information which I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be willing to give.

I think that there is common agreement in all parts of the House that the kind of advertisements to which reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) are deplorable and that some means should be found of preventing such advertisements from appearing and of preventing such circulars from being distributed. I gather that we are on common ground in believing that there is an evil here. Although we may be grateful, as I am, to my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes for having brought this particular advertisement to the notice of the House, hon. Members are aware that this is not some singular and exceptional and unique case. We are dealing here with something which is commonplace, which is widespread, and which has been going on for years. It has tended to increase recently, but we are dealing with something which is not novel and which is not new and which is not an isolated case, but which represents a serious evil of large dimensions and of long duration.

The answer given by the Under-Secretary was that this kind of case can already be dealt with under the decision in the "Ladies' Directory" case in the House of Lords. That is the Home Office's answer to the fears which have been expressed this morning about these advertisements. I want to ask the Under-Secretary four questions.

First, what was the date of the House of Lords decision in the "Ladies Directory" case? My recollection is that it was certainly several years ago. It is not a recent case. The case was heard in the House of Lords a considerable time ago. If we could be told at least the year in which the judgment was given, it would be helpful for the purpose of my next question.

Secondly, if the evil of the advertisement to which reference has been made can be dealt with in view of the decision in the "Ladies' Directory" case, how many proceedings have already been taken on the strength of the "Ladies' Directory" case; and what has been the result of those proceedings? Have people been convicted, and have penalties been imposed?

Thirdly, some of us in the House at any rate are of opinion that, if the Bill becomes an Act, it is likely to lead to a great increase in the kind of advertisements and the kind of solicitings to which reference has been made. What proposals of a constructive nature has the Home Office got for dealing with this evil which already exists and which is likely to become much more extensive if the Bill becomes an Act?

Fourthly, and lastly, perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman can help me as a layman. Most of those who have spoken so far are members of the legal profession. I ask my final question out of my ignorance. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will understand the reason for it. If we are right in thinking that the "Ladies' Directory" case covers this situation and that prosecutions can be brought in respect of such advertisements, can private persons initiate such proceedings if the official authorities are unwilling to move?

Mr. Richard Sharples (Sutton and Cheam)

As the promoter of the Bill knows, I have been a supporter of the Bill, for reasons which I need not go into now. In fact, I should be out of order if I were to attempt to do so now. However, I was profoundly disturbed by the Under-Secretary's reply to a question which was raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). The hon. and learned Gentleman has completely failed to understand the importance of the Clause and the principle lying behind it. I accept the criticisms he makes of the drafting. Those of us who want to see the law liberalised in many respects believe that the Home Office spokesman has completely failed to grasp the dangers which there are in the proselytising of homosexuality. Many of us want to see the offence itself abolished on the lines put forward in the Wolfenden Report, but we have fears about the young and those who are on the verge of taking up an activity of this kind being drawn into the net.

The Under-Secretary based his rejection of the principle of the Clause on two grounds. He said, first, that the case would be covered by the decision in the "Ladies' Directory" case. I am not a lawyer, but I very much dispute that opinion. The "Ladies' Directory" was not a simple list of prostitutes. It was a booklet containing invitations, veiled though they might have been, to every sort and kind of vice. As I recall it, the decision was on those grounds and not on the ground that this was simply a list of prostitutes. I believe, for reasons which have been advanced from this side, notably by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), that, if the Home Office is basing its rejection of the Clause on those grounds, the grounds are wholly false.

The second ground upon which the Under-Secretary based his rejection of the principle of the Clause was that these were matters which would be examined by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. We have no idea how long it will take for the Committee to make its report, nor do we have any undertaking from the Home Office as to when it will seek Parliamentary time to implement the decisions of the Committee.

The Home Office has completely underestimated the possibilities that there are the moment that the Bill becomes an Act of the circularisation of people who may be on the verge of taking up homosexual practices but resisting them and of young people. I beg the Under-Secretary to think again about this. I realise that he would not be able to advise the House to accept the Clause, for the reasons he has already given. But I believe that the Home Office should give much more serious consideration than we have been led to believe has been given from the ground advanced for rejecting the principle lying behind the Clause. As a supporter of the Bill I shall not vote against the Clause on the evidence which we have so far heard.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

As one of the sponsors of the Bill, if I believed that it would be possible under the Bill for lists of the kind described in the new Clause to be published, and that they would tend to promote acts of homosexuality, and if I thought there were no provisions in the Bill to deal with that, I would share all the indignation which has rightly been expressed at the possibility of commercial exploitation in any form of people who, as has been said, are unfortunate.

Certainly, too, if I felt that there was any danger in the Bill of people being able to exploit young people in particular, in the manner envisaged by the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), I would share the apprehensions of hon. Members who have spoken. But I do not believe that it would be possible under the law after the passage of this Bill in its present form for such lists with such intentions to be published without attracting heavy penalties.

I noticed that there was some diffidence in the latter part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), who could not recall the name of the case—it was the Shaw casein 1962, and to which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) rightly drew attention. I think it would be wise, before the alarms are sounded, if we were to refresh our memories. In that case there was a binding decision, a decision which now is beyond a doubt. It was found that there was a conspiracy to corrupt public morals, precisely because there were in the "Ladies' Directory" advertisements which sought to induce readers to reply to the said advertisements for the purposes of fornication and taking part in or witnessing immoral acts and exhibitions, raising and creating in their minds inordinate and lustful desires.

Precisely because the liberty of the subject was so affected and because of the suggestion that such a publication could be regarded as a criminal conspiracy, it went to the House of Lords. But it is significant that when it reached that place there was a majority decision —by such people as Lord Simonds, Lord Tucker and Lord Hodson—who laid it down that the common law misdemeanour to corrupt public morals existed, that it is indictable, and if it is calculated to cause public injury certainly it is a serious offence.

The argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman is that the law now suggests that homosexuality in certain circumstances is no longer an offence. May I point out that the act of prostitution is not a criminal offence. In fact, the conspiracy which was referred to, namely, of publishing invitations to indulge with prostitutes, is not in itself an offence. The fact is that this material was published with a view to inducing people to indulge in this lewd practice.

Mr. Hogg

I ask this question to elicit information and not to put the hon. Member in a difficulty. Indeed, I am profoundly grateful to him for dealing with this matter rather less perfunctorily than did the Minister. How far does the hon. Gentleman consider that this decision of the House of Lords—this is the problem with which I am concerned —precludes the publication of lists confined to prostitution which may be acts of fornication between individuals in private, and how far does the reasoning depend upon the fact that the contents of the "Ladies' Directory" included acts of flagellation and acts of demonstration before audiences? It is this point which gives both myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) cause for doubt.

Mr. Abse

I am strengthened in my view by the fact that there was a dissenting judgment which is of great significance in this context. Lord Reid, in his dissenting judgment, said that he could not go as far as the other judges on the question of inducing people to participate in sexual acts with prostitutes, exhibitions and so on. This is, in fact, the weakest aspect of the case. He said that he was of the opinion that although there was no general offence of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, a public invitation to indulge in sexual perversion constituted the common law misdemeanour of an outrage on public decency and that, therefore, the conspiracy charged, so far as it related to an invitation to resort to certain forms of perversion, was indictable as a conspiracy to commit a crime. The dissenting judgment deals specifically with the question of perversion and, therefore, even though this is the weakest part of the case, I am satisfied that the publication of lists of this kind, which I abhor as much as anyone, can effectively be dealt with under that case.

I would go further. I should like to draw attention to the fact that there are other provisions in the Bill. The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) with fairness drew attention to Clause 5, although he considered that it was too weak. He saw with perspicacity that if somebody was making money out of something which resulted in a form of male prostitution, it is possible and highly probable that it would be brought within Clause 5. There is, however, something which has not yet been mentioned, and I should like to direct attention to Clause 4. Subsection (1) of that Clause relates specifically to the offence of procuring others to commit homosexual acts and this attracts a penalty of two years' imprisonment.

Therefore, whilst I appreciate the concern and alarm of hon. Members, I believe that those who are genuinely concerned should be reassured by the very terms of the Bill in so far as there are many ways in which it would be possible for the police to take action if anybody thought that he could take advantage of the existing change in the law to publish iniquitous lists of the kind that we have in mind.

Mr. Percival

I do not wish to cross swords with the hon. Member. Indeed, I am obliged to him for the care and detail with which he has dealt with the matter. He has raised a number of very interesting questions, particularly whether what is envisaged would be regarded as procuring under Clause 4—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Percival

I am merely trying to shorten my question, Mr. Speaker. Would the hon. Gentleman not agree with this? In the course of his speech he has posed a number of very interesting questions. He has also given the answers, although I think he concedes that there may be other answers. But surely when we have a very interesting situation like this, if one wants to be sure, should not one take the simple course of making sure in the Bill? Is not that the simple way out?

Mr. Abse

As sure as a lawyer ever can be about a Clause—and the hon. and learned Gentleman knows that there are always hazards—I believe that, as the law stands and as it will be under this Bill, his apprehensions are groundless.

Mr. Mawby

We understand that the judgment the hon. Gentleman read out hinged upon the question of perversion. Is he satisfied that the courts in future, if this Bill were passed, would still take the same attitude towards this type of perversion?

Mr. Abse

The hon. Gentleman cannot expect me to say anything but "Yes". I do so genuinely because there is no question of any suggestion that this Bill means that homosexual acts cease to be an offence. It is only in very special circumstances that they cease to be an offence under the Bill.

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

Perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, and the House may be surprised that I should seek to intervene in a debate like this, representing as I do a constituency like Nantwich. In the green fields of Nantwich these acts are not a daily occurrence. Nor are they discussed daily. But I feel that since I have received, despite this, a number of letters, all of them opposed to the Bill, I should take the opportunity to say that at any rate in our part of the country there is the utmost opposition to the Bill and support for this new Clause.

My constituents know, from their experiences in visiting the neighbouring metropolis of Manchester, that there is a great deal to be said—indeed, everything to be said—for the Clause to be accepted. Those of us who go about the West End of London and look occasionally in the windows where lists of this and that are publicly shown—people wanting domestic help or flats or something of that kind—know that there in many instances people are trying to promote homosexuality. I have watched the types of people who go and read these notices. It is not too difficult to see what lies behind them.

The very cogent and excellent speeches which have been made on behalf of the Clause ought to receive greater attention from the Joint Under-Secretary of State and from the sponsors of the Bill than they seem to be receiving. I cannot help but comment that as far as I can see—and I may be wrong—few sponsors of the Bill have taken the trouble to come here today and listen to the arguments about this Clause and to refute them. Surely the Bill's promoters, if they are as serious as they purport to be, should be here in greater numbers to speak on such an important new Clause as this. When I see the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir E. Rawlinson) amongst those names, I am quite sure that, if he were here, he would want to say something about this matter.

12.45 p.m.

It is really disappointing that this does not seem to be taken seriously enough by the promoters of the Bill for them to speak against the Clause. We have heard practically nothing of any importance against the Clause. Yet speech after speech has been made on its behalf by people who have studied this matter very thoughtfully. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival), who does not give us the benefit of his oratory as much as I would like, pleaded the case in a thoughtful and excellent speech, but I suppose that the degree of excellence can be judged by the amount of rising by opponents of the Clause to the questions that my hon. and learned Friend was putting. But what he was saying was nevertheless of great effect.

I have no hesitation in saying that I shall support the Clause. I would willingly accept an assurance, however, that the Home Office will look at this again and perhaps produce something to meet the matter. This could easily be done in another place. But if we accept the situation as it is we shall all live deeply to regret it.

I speak as one who has not been playing a great part in the proceedings of the Bill. Indeed, I have felt that, on the whole, something of the nature of the Bill was desirable. But to do it the way in which it is being done, and to turn down this Clause in its entirety, is something that we should all live to regret.

Sir C. Osborne

We are grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your guidance and indulgence. We have transgressed and you have brought us back nicely to the paths of rectitude. Until the last few speeches, I feared that the supporters of the Bill were going to remain remarkably silent. We heard nothing from them until we had been discussing the Clause for one hour and 20 minutes. I have never heard the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), who is such a good speaker, remain so silent for so long on a subject on which he is such an expert. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who supports him, never uttered a word, which was remarkable. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples) and to the hon. Member for Pontypool, as supporters of the Bill, for having something to say, as it were, in its defence and against the Clause.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State gave us a very poor, short and curt reply. It was not the reasoned answer to which we were entitled. It was rather discourteous of the Home Secretary—who I know is a very busy man—just to walk in here for five minutes and then leave and not even listen to a very important discussion. It would have been more courteous of him to stay and listen.

The core of the Clause is that those who indulge in activities tending to promote acts of homosexuality should be punished. I do not think that any hon. Member, whether in favour of or against the Bill, would suggest that men who indulge in promoting this kind of activity would do so for love. They do it for money—a lot of money.

If ever there was filthy lucre this is where it is in our hag-ridden London today. It is the filthiest of filthy lucre against which I am protesting—and all we get is a curt answer from the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the back of the Home Secretary and just one speech from a sponsor of the Bill who very kindly gives us from his great knowledge cases from the past. But it is those who make money out of this filthy game that I want to punish. [Interruption.] I do not think it is a laughing matter. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman) says that it is. I would go to Nelson and Colne and see if his people think that it is a laughing matter.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

When we consider how many enormous fortunes that have been made and will continue to be made out of porongraphy generally, I repeat that this particular aspect of this particular matter is a laughing matter.

Sir C. Osborne

That other people wickedly make money in an evil way does not take away from the wickedness of this. I would like the hon. Gentleman to fight a by-election on returning to Lancashire and saying that it is a laughing matter that men make money out of the weakness and evil of their fellow men.

That is what makes me so angry at the promoters of the Bill. They take the things I hold as sacred and dear and think that they are laughing matters. I do not. It revolts me. I pass this point on to the hon. Member for Pontypool. Last weekend I re-read part of the history of Europe by a great English liberal historian. In the third chapter on the fall of Rome he said that the things we are now discussing formed one of the causes of the breakdown of that civilisation. That was not a laughing matter.

Mr. Speaker

I must guide the hon. Gentleman back into the debate.

Sir C. Osborne

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I was tempted.

This is a matter of procuring and publishing lists. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) read only one. Perhaps I may read just one more. I have one here listed as G.80 in the publication. It says: Likeable young man, 28, would like to meet executives having premises in West End. Available mid-day, evenings "— he cannot be very hard working and producing much economically— Give address, phone number. All answered. Does not the hon. Member for Pontypool agree that this is the type of thing we should stamp out if possible? If it is circulated it gets from hand to hand, and what is to prevent its being sent among young people and young men? It is the kind of thing that leads to social evils and is tending to corrupt our national life. I was asking in the Clause that men who indulge in it should be punished.

The Under-Secretary told me that the result of my proposal would be to send more people to prison. He did not say how. I do not believe it; I do not accept his bald, terse statement. Whitehall knows best, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I do not accept that. How does he know that my proposal would send more men to prison?

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Clause was not clear and was too wide. This is my drafting and I am not a Parliamentary draftsman. If the Parliamentary draftsmen can put my intentions into better words, I shall readily accept them.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is my hon. Friend now saying to the Treasury Bench that he seeks an assurance that if he and I and other hon. Members withdrew the Clause it would undertake to find a form of words to give effect to the same objectives and introduce it in another place? If so, would he demand an answer on that point?

Sir C. Osborne

I know that a Minister can give us an answer but that we cannot demand the answer we require. You have at least taught me that. Mr. Speaker.

The hon. and learned Gentleman also said that the Clause would punish people who ran clubs that incidentally brought homos together. Punishment is deserved by any association that brings homos together and encourages these acts that I think are repulsive. I read all the debates on the subject in the past two years last weekend and I did not find one hon. Member who defended the practice of homosexuality. Everybody said that it was a degrading and disgusting habit. Therefore, if a club incidentally or partially operates so as to bring homos together and encourage this degrading and demoralising activity, I say that it should be punished. The Clause wants that to be done, but the Home Office says, "No", and on this we shall have to oppose it.

I should like to know what assurance the Under-Secretary can give the House. The core of my objection is that if these lists go out—

Mr. Dance

In relation to that publication, would my hon. Friend agree that as it took a long time before the "Ladies Directory" was taken away, something must be done to deter people from using that sort of document, and that five years' imprisonment or a £5,000 fine would be a deterrent?

Sir C. Osborne

That is what I am asking should be done. I am an amateur at drawing up new Clauses. I do not mind if the Home Secretary puts my intentions into his words, as long as I get my way.

What proposal has the Home Office in mind to prevent this type of thing being circulated among youths aged 16 to 21? Would people who circulated it be punishable? I hope that the Home Secretary regards it as an objectionable form of activity. It is not an economic activity that will increase the gross national product very much. A maximum punishment of a term of imprisonment and a £5,000 fine is not nearly too high for this kind of procuring. When it is remembered how much money is being earned in London today tax-free by all kinds of vice, fines of £5,000 do not seem too much but too little. I beg the Home Secretary not to oppose the Clause.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) said that this sort of thing could lead to greater blackmail. I believe that this is true. If such a list were found by one boy in the possession of another, or by one man in a factory in another's possession, it would be a source of blackmail. Hon. Members must realise that if homosexuality ceases to be a criminal offence it still remains a social offence, and men would be frightened of their activities being known to their families and would still be subject to blackmail.

Mr. Farr

Would my hon. Friend allow me?

Sir C. Osborne

Do not stop me again. All right.

Mr. Farr

Would not my hon. Friend agree that one precedes the other, and that whilst homosexuality may be a grave social offence today, if the Bill is enacted and it ceases to be a criminal offence it may not continue to be a social offence as it is at the moment?

Sir C. Osborne

I think that it will. This is far from the Clause—it is leading me away. I still think that it would be a social offence. I believe that blackmail would increase, and that it is one of the greatest social evils.

1.0 p.m.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Percival) said that clubs which brought homos together must be punished. The Under-Secretary made no reply to that. My hon. and learned Friend asked him whether he would make any provision in that respect, and he got no reply at all.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) said—

Dr. David Kerr (Wandsworth, Central)

Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, That the Question be now put—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Not in mid-sentence in the middle of a speech. Sir Cyril Osborne.

Hon. Members

Go on.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) will continue his speech.

Sir G. Nabarro

Hear, hear; and a very good speech, too.

Mr. Speaker


Sir C. Osborne

It is a difficult one for me to make. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon said that, whereas the Under-Secretary maintained that there was already provision in law to deal with this type of publication as a result of the "Ladies' Directory" case, it is some years since that case was heard in the courts. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman tell us when it was?

Mr. Taverne

The answer to that question was given by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). It was in 1962.

Sir C. Osborne

I am obliged to the Under-Secretary. How many prosecutions have taken place since then? None. The defence which the hon. and learned Gentleman puts up by calling that case in aid is valueless, because, in the last five years there have been no prosecutions—

Mr. Taverne

I cannot comment on that without making a second speech.

Sir C. Osborne

No supporter of the Bill has dealt with my plea to impose a fine instead of imprisonment. No one has taken into account the overcrowding of our prisons and the foolishness of sending young men to prisons where there are already 9,000 inmates crowded together two and three to a single cell. No one has met my case on that. Not one single argument has been put forward against this most important point. If we have no better answers than that, when the time comes I shall have to ask the House to divide.

Dr. David Kerr rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question he now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Grant-Ferris

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the course of this Division, I observed an hon. Member going into the Aye Lobby

through the front door instead of one of the side doors or the rear door. Is it in order to record a vote from a Member who does not pass the Tellers in the correct direction to begin with?

The Postmaster-General (Mr. Edward Short)

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I point out that when the hon. Member went through past the Tellers you had not given the order for the doors to be locked. So far as I am aware, there is no rule against that. It is unusual, but there is no rule against it.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman has answered the point of order. It is unusual, but, provided the hon. Member has passed the Tellers at some stage in the ordinary way, the vote is all right.

The House divided: Ayes 102, Noes 23.

Division No. 386.] AYES [1.2 p.m.
Abse, Leo Horner, John Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.
Albu, Austen Howie, W. Rankin, John
Allen, Scholefield Huckfield, L. Rees, Merlyn
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.) Richard, Ivor
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Hunt, John Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Barnes, Michael Janner, Sir Barnett Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow,E.)
Bidwell, Sydney Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b"n&St.P'cras,S.) Roebuck, Roy
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Booth, Albert Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Bradley, Tom Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Cant, R. B. Judd, Frank St. John-Stevas, Norman
Channon, H. P. G. Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Chapman, Donald Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Sheldon, Robert
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Lee, John (Reading) Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lector, Miss Joan Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dell, Edmund Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Dewar, Donald Lyon, Alexander w. (York) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Dickens, James Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Taverne, Dick
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) MacColl, James Teeling, Sir William
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Macdonald, A. H. Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Ellis, John Mackie, John Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
English, Michael Mackintosh, John P. Waiden, Brian (All Saints)
Ennals, David McNamara, J. Kevin Wallace, George
Ensor, David Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Walters, Dennis
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Weitzman, David
Foley, Maurice Marquand, David Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw vale) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Whitaker, Ben
Forrester, John Mikardo, Ian Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Montgomery, Fergus Winniok, David
Fraser, John (Norwood) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby,S.) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Freeson, Reginald Ogden, Eric Yates, Victor
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Hamling, William Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heffer, Eric S. Parker, John (Dagenham) Mr. Eric G. Varley and
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.) Mr. Peter M. Jackson.
Hooley, Frank Pavitt, Laurence
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Doughty, Charles Mawby, Ray
Bell, Ronald Drayson, G. B. Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Black, Sir Cyril Farr, John Percival, Ian
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Grant-Ferris, R. Sinclair, Sir George
Cary, Sir Robert Gurden, Harold Weatherill, Bernard
Corfield, F. V. Hall, John (Wycombe)
Currie, G. B. H. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Dance, James Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Sir Gerald Nabarro and
Digby, Simon Wingfield Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Sir Cyril Osborne.

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