HC Deb 06 February 1996 vol 271 c123
4. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he will publish his departmental report regarding homosexuality in the armed forces. [12030]

Mr. Soames

I expect to receive the homosexuality assessment team's report later this month and, when I have considered it, a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Brown

Will my hon. Friend confirm or deny the reports in today's Evening Standard?

Mr. Soames

Again, that is a pleasure that has passed me by. I assure my hon. Friend, however, that neither I nor my right hon. and hon. Friends have yet received the report. When we do, we will give it the most careful consideration. I am grateful for the sensible and realistic way in which my hon. Friend has approached these matters and for the helpful guidance that he has frequently given.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is it not true that many homosexual service men were decorated for bravery, for gallantry in the field and for their courage during the second world war? Will the Minister confirm that from the Dispatch Box?

Mr. Soames

I am sure that, in the course of a number of global conflicts, a number of homosexuals have acted with the highest gallantry. The view of service chiefs and Ministers is based not in any way on moral judgment, but on the impracticality of homosexual behaviour, which is clearly not compatible with service life.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Will my hon. Friend give the House a clear undertaking that no changes will be effected in the armed forces against the wishes of those currently serving?

Mr. Soames

I know that my hon. Friend will accept from me the clear statement that I have just made, but he will also understand why we commissioned the report, the basis of which will form part of a paper that is to be submitted to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. A copy will placed in the Library. The House will have a full chance to discuss such important matters, but the view of service chiefs, of Ministers and, I have to say, of the great majority of the people in the armed forces, is exactly as I have outlined.

Mr. Tony Banks

Is there not some inconsistency in Government policy towards homosexuals in the armed forces? Is it not technically possible for a Defence Minister to be homosexual, even though it is unlawful for someone in the armed forces to be homosexual? Is not that unfair and inconsistent?

Mr. Soames

I have rarely found inconsistencies in Government policy of any sort.