§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Robert G. Hughes.]10.41 pm
§ Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)
Madam Deputy Speaker, may I first thank you for relinquishing your bed tonight to be with me. I have some dreadful bug and I should have been in my bed tonight. However, what I have to say is most important, so I shall struggle on. I also thank the Solicitor-General who executes his responsibilities with the highest level of integrity.
My local newspaper revealed that 21 homosexual men were arrested committing acts of gross indecency in a public toilet that my children pass on their way to school every day. I congratulate the Essex police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government on their policy and action in prosecuting those perverted men and protecting my community. All public toilets in my constituency now have to be closed at night—locked up—and one of them was taken entirely out of use on police advice to stop the homosexual act that I understand is called "cottaging".
The reduction in the, age of consent and the profound experiences of my constituents suggest an urgent need to review prosecution policy for homosexual offences and that is why I am raising the matter tonight.
I will defend the right of homosexuals to live without discrimination and in dignity—indeed, I welcome loving and caring relationships between all people—but there can be no equality between natural sexual intercourse and buggery, which is wrong because it is medically dangerous, social destructive and unnatural. It is against nature's laws. We must protect immature teenage boys from exploitation by homosexual men who tend to be more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts and live within a corrosive subculture.
Section 12(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956, as amended in 1967, gives that it is a felony for a person to commit buggery with another person or an animal, with the exception of consenting males who have attained the age of 21. Crown prosecutors must be concerned with two criteria in deciding whether to prosecute any offence, including buggery. First, there must be evidential sufficiency and, secondly, the prosecution must be in the public interest.
I will show that the public interest is best served by an uncompromising prosecution policy and by setting out the various issues and arguments covering equality and life style, immaturity, freedom, health and health education, promiscuity, the buggery lobby Stonewall's tactics and many other issues.
I will start with discrimination. The law as it now stands does not in any way criminalise homosexuality itself or discriminate against homosexuals. It simply prevents the sodomy of teenage boys, all women, small children and animals. The proposed reduction in the age at which buggery would be legal would increase discrimination, on the basis of gender, by making buggery legal with a teenage boy, but keeping it illegal with a woman of any age in or out of marriage. That would indeed be discriminatory.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
Why should there be an age of consent for an act of perversion at all?
§ Dr. Spink
My hon. and learned Friend makes his point most succinctly, and I thank him for that.
I come to the quite different argument of equality. Stonewall has predicated its case on the falsehood that there is equality between the sex acts—the point that my hon. and learned Friend has just raised. Of course, all sexual acts are not equal. The acts of incest, paedophilia, necrophilia, bestiality and buggery have been outlawed over centuries in every civilisation, and for good reason.
Let me briefly review the argument of the prosecution policy for offences of forced buggery. Such offences are tried on indictment. If the victim is a woman, the maximum punishment is life. If the victim is a teenage boy aged 16 to 21, it is only 10 years. That is discrimination on the irrational basis of the gender of the victim. I know of no other crime where the sentence is determined by the gender of the victim. I want life for male rape.
I come now to the life style argument by quoting Christian Action Research and Education, which said in a letter on 7 February:Engaging in homosexual acts at a young age involves much more than sleeping with someone; it has now become a decision to adopt a particular lifestyle. The all-embracing power of the homosexual sub-culture in our society should not be underestimated.An 18-year-old boy who consents to a homosexual act is initiated into a lifestyle that will separate him from the mainstream of society. For vulnerable and lonely teenage boys, homosexuality can offer immediate warmth and acceptance. There is a sense of identity and comradeship, but there is a price to pay—childlessness, instability, disease and now the mortal danger of AIDS. That price is not something which many teenage lads are properly able to evaluate, and that brings me to the immaturity argument.
Even at 18, boys can be sexually and socially confused. In the letter of 7 February, CARE stated:We do not believe homosexual orientation to be fixed and absolute, and note that emotional feelings towards those of the same sex are not uncommon, particularly in adolescence … The main role of the law in this area must be to protect individuals and especially young people from any exploitation.Those are sound words, and I agree with them entirely.
The British Medical Association acknowledged in 1976 theslower rate of biological developmentof teenage boys. That comes from the Library research paper, 94/12. Moreover, in 1979, the Home Office Policy Advisory Committee on sexual offences stated:Many young people aged 16 are still at school or have just started work … They are all to some extent at risk of seduction by homosexuals, especially those in authority over them. Some boys may be confused about their sexuality and a boy who is so confused is particularly open to exploitation. The majority of us do not think that it is a sufficient answer to say that a 16 year old boy is strong enough to repulse any unwanted homosexual advances: the fact that the boy consents to homosexual advances does not mean that he is unlikely to be harmed.Clearly, any reduction of the age of buggery would put teenage boys who are just below any new age at risk and under greater pressure from the "don't knock it until you've tried it" pro-buggery lobby. Stonewall stated in its "Case for Change" of September 1993 that if 18 was passed it would be back again for 16 and in the meantime it would insist on a policy of no prosecution for the buggery of 16 and 17-year-olds.
Prosecution policy sometimes accepts the existence of grey areas. It is known as the penumbra effect and currently operates with regard to sodomy. There is a general policy of non-prosecution for those over 18. I do 721 not want to see any such penumbra effect for 16 and 17-year-olds. I ask the Solicitor-General to clarify Government policy tonight. Prosecution policy must uphold a law that has been passed through all its stages in this House and another place and given Royal Assent. It would be a contempt of Parliament for a waiver to be given in those circumstances.
§ Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)
I have a very simple question. Why does my hon. Friend think that the solution to two 18-year-olds consenting to have sex together is to send them to prison?
§ Dr. Spink
My concern is to prevent those two 18-year-olds having sex that would be medically dangerous and would take them into a life style that they might regret when they became older. I want the age of consent to remain as it is at 21 because I truly, honestly and sincerely feel for those young people. I have a number of young children myself.
I turn now to the unworthy argument, "They do it anyway so why not legalise it?" Some teenage boys abuse dangerous drugs and solvents. I do not want to legalise those practices because, as with buggery, they put our lads at greater risk. Those lads deserve our love, our care and our protection from predatory older men and from themselves. We owe it to them, to their mothers and to their fathers.
I reject the voting age argument and the argument that people fight for their country at 18. One cannot indulge in drugs, in incest or in bestiality at 18 or bugger a woman at 18. Why should one be allowed to bugger a man at 18?
Let me deal now with the feeble-minded freedom argument. Absolute individual freedom is not possible in a civilised society. We all know that. Laws restrict individual freedom—even the freedom to damage oneself or consenting others in private.
While we are on intellectually sloppy arguments, let me put to bed immediately the argument that says that we are out of step with the continent. If that be so, so be it. The continent is out of step with nature. As for the case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and articles 14 and 18 of the convention, we can face that challenge if we so wish.
The Church Society stated in January:There is no culture that accepts homosexuality as natural. All world religions consider it immoral.However, I shall not moralise tonight in any way.[Interruption.] I have not done that. My arguments for animating prosecution policy are purely medical and social and based on my concern for young people. The medical arguments are the strongest, so let me address them now.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker(Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. May I point out that interventions are always at the discretion of the person who has the Floor.
§ Dr. Spink
I am indebted to you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
722 The medical arguments are the strongest. Hon. Members should look into the darkened, hollow eyes in the white shrunken faces of the young AIDS victims just down the road from here in King's College hospital. Then they would not relax prosecution policy, or legalise, and therefore promote disease-ridden practices of buggery.
Buggery is not like heterosexual intercourse. The receptor organ is entirely different and designed, not to protect, as in the female organ, which is 20 cells thick, but to damage by facilitating the exchange of fluids direct into the bloodstream through the one-cell-thick epithelium. We have gay bowel syndrome, parasitic colon diseases and hepatitis A. Buggery spreads venereal diseases. It spreads blood-borne disease such as AIDS and hepatitis B—a sobering thought even for the responsible sodomite, but not for the generally more promiscuous teenage boys who cannot evaluate the risks. Here I am relying on evidence from the British Medical Association, which stated in January thatunsafe sexual behaviour and HIV infection have both increased among homosexual men after a period of decline and that recent figures for new HIV transmissions show that younger men are disproportionately affected.Project SIGMA found that homosexuals under 21 are more likely to engage in receptive anal sex without protection. Those under 21 are more likely to be HIV positive and to contract rectal gonorrhoea than the over-21s.
I come now to the important health education argument—the key argument of the pro-teenage buggery lobby. That lobby argues that, to promote safe sex education, buggery should be legalised.
The Education Minister stated in answer to my written question:The new arrangements for sex education introduced by the Education Act 1993, which will come into force in September 1994, require maintained secondary schools to provide sex education".—[Official Report, 26 January 1994; Vol. 236, c.290.]That sex education would include clear information on safe sex in a proper context for all children and young people.
Library research paper 94/12 states that in any eventIt is well documented that amonghomosexualand bisexual men knowledge of HIV risks is generally accurate and universally high.The Health Education Authority stated in January 1994 thatmuch of the"—sex education—restriction is self-imposed by health educators and that there is no restriction on aiming health promotion at younghomosexualmen under the age of 21, nor on limiting education in schools aimed at the purpose of treating or preventing … disease.The law therefore needs clarifying, not changing.
On balance and in the light of the evidence, I reject the health education argument. In a nutshell, children will get safe sex education at school, they universally and accurately know about safe sex and such education is now legal. Many homosexuals still—unbelievably—indulge in unsafe sex, in full knowledge of the dangers, and in any event, safe penetrative anal sex is an illusion.
The editor of Rubber Chemistry and Technology has written:I find absurd the popular notion that condoms allow anyone safely to engaged in sexual relations with HIV carriers … The AIDS virus is 450 times smaller than sperm, therefore the effectiveness of condoms is seriously impaired by the well 723 established fact that latex rubber contains inherent structural flaws which are at least 50 times larger than the HIV virus.There is food for thought.
Allow me, Madam Deputy Speaker, to show you this full-page picture of a suggestive nude male and a seductive nude lady. The headline asks, "Which do you find more attractive? " The man or the lady, I suppose. The advertisement continues:To help you sort out your feelings, it's quite likely you could have a sexual encounter or two with a member of your own sex.Of course, this should still involve safer sex"—interestingly it does not mention safe sex, only safer sex—This could include massage, body rubbing, or mutual masturbation.Penetrative sex can be more risky. But it is unprotected anal sex that's the riskiest of all … So if you do try it, you should always use stronger condoms … if you practise safer sex"—again safer and not safe—you know you're doing everything you can to protect yourself and your partner.Nowhere does it hint at the possibility of saying no to what is an illegal act. The advertisement seems to be promoting the act.
That advertisement was published in a weekly football magazine for young boys, by the Health Education Authority using public funds. My constituent Mr. Waterton was right to complain of the shock and upset that the advertisement caused his children and those of his friends.Hon. Members will be astounded by that irresponsible advertisement.
On disinformation, I recall that Sir Ian McKellen told me during a live television debate that 97 out of every 100 practising homosexual men do not know about—or have never had any education about—safe sex and condom use. That obviously false assertion typifies the pro-buggery lobby tactics of spreading disinformation and confusion.
§ Dr. Spink
But some of their tactics have been more subtle and they have been aided by a biased or intellectually sloppy media. They talk only of some ephemeral equality, and never about the buggery of teenage boys, which is the only issue that is on the table now. They put up Sir Ian McKellen as their spokesman—a gentle, acceptable, lovable, media-wise operator. He is not some outrageous queen. He would not frighten the horses. He is the kingpin in the seductive, well-oiled homosexual propaganda magazine, but his actor's mask fell when he said that a case could be made for no age of consent.
I turn to homosexual promiscuity and the impact that that has on homosexuals' life expectancy, which is significantly lower than that of their heterosexual counterparts. In Essex, 21 homosexual men have, so far this year, been arrested indulging in acts of gross indecency in one toilet. That practice is happening in hon. Members' constituencies up and down the country even as I speak. Mrs. Edna Adams, a great Dorset dignitary, told me last week that a pair of jeans hung in a tree in Arrowsmith road indicated that the children were not safe because the homosexuals were out.
The promiscuity evidence is explained and developed in the book "The Sexual Dead-End" by Stephen Green MA, but I will give an example. Danneckers' survey found that 724 80 per cent. of young homosexuals had more than 20 sexual partners and one in seven had sex with more than 50 men in the previous year.
My seventeenth and final argument concerns public opinion. The buggery lobby, Stonewall, commissioned a Harris poll which found that 74 per cent. of the population approved of teenage buggery. Gallup, in its much more independent "Social Trends" poll four months earlier, found that 74 per cent. disapproved. It goes to show that if one pays the piper enough, he will play any tune that one wants. The truth is that the Great British public want homosexuals to live without discrimination but they do not want the buggery of teenage boys. It is as simple as that.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
Order. I have already made the point very clearly. May I also point out to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) that this is a half-hour debate. The custom is to allow about half the time to the hon. Member raising the subject and about half the time to the Minister.
§ Dr. Spink
I am indebted to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I made an arrangement with the Minister, and I shall stick to it if I may.
The Lords threw out that Bill. One Member of the original Wolfenden Committee, the Marquess of Lothian, argued that boys between 18 and 21 were still at risk of exploitation. Those comments appeared in Hansard of 14 June 1977. Even the libertarian Lord Kinsey concluded that teenage lads experience considerable personal conflict over their homosexual activities and try to make heterosexual adjustments. I beg their lordships to do their duty again.
I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and the Solicitor-General, for listening so attentively to my arguments. Does the Solicitor-General recall that, while he was on sabbatical, Lady Thatcher said:any such proposal would give totally the wrong signal at this time. It would give offence to many people and worry many more and would give us great problems in the future. I would be very much against reducing the age of consent."—[Official Report, 15 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 391.]Her words were prophetic. As Lady Thatcher indicated, any relaxation of prosecution policy would give totally the wrong signal. The overwhelming medical and social evidence shows that we need a red light not a green light to the buggery of teenage boys.
§ 11.3 pm
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Derek Spencer)
I am answering the debate as the second Law Officer of the Crown, not as the Member of Parliament for Brighton, Pavilion, in which capacity I voted on the amendment to the age of consent that the House debated on 21 February this year.
I want to make it quite plain to my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) that I do not propose to follow him in discussing the relevant merits of any 725 particular age of consent. I am here to deal with current prosecuting policy on the basis of present law and nothing else.
I thank my hon. Friend for his tribute to the work done by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. In view of the extensive area that my hon. Friend has covered, I shall go straight to a number of the principal points that he has raised.
First, the CPS deals—and, in the nature of things, can only deal—with those cases brought to its attention by the police. The police set their own operational priorities; no politician, however senior, has any business or power to direct the operational behaviour of the police.
The second matter that I must make plain is that the prosecuting policy in this country is not a matter for the Government at all. It is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions, as the head of the CPS, under the superintendence of the Attorney-General, as the first Law Officer of the Crown. No Minister, however senior, has any right to intervene in the execution of that policy.
There are three main offences to which prosecuting policy refers: buggery, gross indecency between males and solicitation of men. It is significant to observe that, in a number of respects, special safeguards operate before proceedings can be instituted. For example, in relation to buggery or gross indecency, where one or more of the men is under the age of 21, prosecution cannot be instituted without the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Secondly, there is a time limit on the institution of prosecutions in those cases other than where the victim is a boy under the age of 16. In those other cases, the prosecution must be brought within 12 months of the offence being committed.
The maximum sentence for buggery in particular and, to a lesser extent, gross indecency reflects two main considerations—age and consent. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment and, depending upon age and consent, it descends to two years' imprisonment. As Lord Justice Lawton said in the case of Willis, in an ordinary case of buggery by a mature man with a boy under the age of 16, in the absence of mitigation or aggravation, the correct sentencing bracket is between three and five years. The maximum sentence for gross indecency varies between five years' and six months' imprisonment.
As my hon. Friend has said, the CPS applies two tests before it institutes proceedings. They are exactly the same tests as are applied to any other offences. First, it decides 726 whether the evidence affords a realistic prospect of conviction; secondly, if that prospect exists, it decides whether the prosecution is in the public interest.
I will glide quickly over the evidential test and go straight to questions of public interest, which I imagine will be of primary concern to most hon. Members.
My hon. Friend said that if one of the offences that I have mentioned had been committed, a prosecution ought to follow, as night follows day. The answer to his point was given as long ago as 1951 by Lord Shawcross, then the Attorney-General, who said:It has never been the rule in this Country—I hope it never will be—that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution.Successive Attorney-Generals have followed that injunction from that day to this. Of course, broadly speaking, the graver the offence, the less likelihood there is that the public interest will allow of any other disposal but prosecution.
However, in deciding where the public interest lies we take into account a number of matters. They may include any of the following seven—first, the age and relative ages of the people involved; secondly, whether there is an element of seduction or corruption; thirdly, whether there is any breach of trust; fourthly, whether there has been any exploitation of position or influence; fifthly, the likely sentence; sixthly, the prevalence of a particular offence in an area; seventhly, the prevalence of annoyance or distress to the public.
Therefore, my hon. Friend will understand that there is a difference between offences committed in private and those committed in public as far as the incidence of public interest factors is concerned. The latter two categories—the sixth and seventh considerations that I mentioned—are likely to hold greater weight if the offence takes place in public.
The factors that I have dealt with are set out in the eighth paragraph to the "Code for Crown Prosecutors", which is a public document and a copy of which is in the Library.
My message for my hon. Friend is this. That is the way in which current prosecuting policy works. Those are some of the public interest factors that we apply. Each case is considered on its merits. It is considered without fear or favour, without affection or and on mature reflection he may come to the conclusion that—
§ The motion having been made after Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ Adjourned at eleven minutes past Eleven o'clock.