HC Deb 09 May 1996 vol 277 cc481-512

. (1) Sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, shall not constitute an offence under any provision of this Act unless that conduct—

  1. (a) is prejudicial, or may be prejudicial, to good order and discipline; or
  2. (b) undermines, or tends to undermine, command relationships; or
  3. (c) involves the use of rank or position to obtain sexual favours or to coerce or encourage another person or persons to take part in sexual activity; or
  4. (d) constitutes a civil offence.

(2) No person who is subject to military law shall be subject to any investigation, disciplinary proceedings or discharge solely on the ground of his or her sexual orientation, whether that person has a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or lesbian orientation.".

(2) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows—

  1. (a) In section 146 (extension of Sexual Offences Act 1967 to the armed forces and merchant navy) subsection (4) is repealed; and
  2. (b) In section 147 (homosexuality on merchant ships and in the armed forces: Northern Ireland) subsection (3) is repealed.'.

. (1) Sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, shall not constitute an offence under any provision of this Act unless that conduct—

  1. (a) is prejudicial, or may be prejudicial, to good order and discipline; or
  2. (b) undermines, or tends to undermine, command relationships; or
  3. (c) involves the use of rank or position to obtain sexual favours or to coerce or encourage another person or persons to take part in sexual activity; or
  4. (d) constitutes a civil offence.

(2) No person who is subject to military law shall be subject to any investigation, disciplinary proceedings or discharge solely on the ground of his or her sexual orientation, whether that person has a heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or lesbian orientation.".

(2) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is amended as follows—

  1. (a) In section 146 (extension of Sexual Offences Act 1967 to the armed forces and merchant navy) subsection (4) is repealed; and
  2. (b) In section 147 (homosexuality on merchant ships and in the armed forces: Northern Ireland) subsection (3) is repealed.'—[Mrs. Currie.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (South Derbyshire)

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

A few moments ago, the House was expressing its concern about dead soldiers. Now it is time to express our concern about the welfare of living soldiers, men and women who are serving in the armed forces right now. New clause 1 has two main elements. Part of the new clause spells out a proposed new code of conduct. It would apply to all inappropriate sexual behaviour, whether heterosexual or homosexual. It would protect women as well as men. It would protect young people, and it would protect those in junior ranks who might be at risk of sexual harassment. It would make it clear to heterosexuals as well as to lesbians and to gay men that no inappropriate behaviour would be tolerated.

The other part of the proposed new clause provides that the armed forces shall not discriminate on the ground of sexual orientation. The supporters of the new clause want to make it absolutely clear that we disapprove profoundly of irresponsible behaviour—by whomever, and whatever their sexual orientation might be. We would prefer to see each case dealt with on its merits or demerits, on the details of the case as presented.

The ban against homosexuals is the only blanket ban that the armed forces currently operate. Heterosexual misconduct, drug taking, alcoholism, bullying and even serious criminal convictions in the civil courts are treated as discretionary disciplinary matters. It is our view, therefore, that the blanket ban is based on prejudice, pure and simple, and as such it is offensive, impractical and expensive.

7.15 pm

All discrimination is inefficient—which is one reason why I, as a Conservative, object to it. But this discrimination, in particular, costs the taxpayer a great deal of money. It has been worked out that each investigation takes approximately 30 working days, and longer in the case of officers. The costs of basic training, including salary and administration, have been estimated at £30,000, and training costs for officers who are dismissed are substantially higher. Specialised training costs are, of course, much higher. Recently, for example, four Nimrod pilots and navigators were discharged, and the cost of replacing them must be absolutely astronomical. Hundreds of trained men and women are discharged, yet we are told that the MOD is short of money.

What type of people are being discharged under the ban? They are hardly ruffians or criminals. They are, in fact, the type of serving men and women we should be very proud to have in our armed forces. Let us consider the cases of several people who are currently taking the MOD to the European Court of Human Rights.

Lieutenant Commander Duncan Lustig-Prean enlisted in 1983 and was discharged in 1994. The officer's report on him, from Commander Mussey, of 31 December 1993 stated that he was A most able, conscientious and industrious officer. His engaging and warm personality allows him to communicate effectively at all levels … Resourceful, versatile and perceptive, he is a most effective manager and organiser … his magnanimous and conciliatory nature fosters genuine trust and support … has great all round potential. He is an outstanding prospect for early promotion to Commander. The word "trust" features in that.

Jeanette Smith, a senior aircraftwoman and nurse, is from Derbyshire. She enlisted in 1989 and was discharged in 1994. Her discharge report said: SAC Smith has an above average understanding of trade knowledge … There is no evidence to suggest misconduct, corruption, blatant or promiscuous activities or unnatural behaviour on service establishments", yet that qualified nurse was dismissed.

John Beckett, from the Royal Navy, was a weapons engineer mechanic serving on HMS Collingwood. He enlisted for 22 years in 1989 and was discharged in September 1993. Sir Michael Layard, Second Sea Lord, Chief of Naval Personnel, said of him: We accept that he was a loyal and patriotic man and that he has not committed a civilian or naval disciplinary offence. Sergeant Graeme Grady, of the Royal Air Force, enlisted in 1980 and was discharged in 1984. His squadron leader, Squadron Leader McDevitt, stated: Sergeant Grady … has been a loyal serviceman and a conscientious and hardworking tradesman who could be relied on to achieve the highest standards. He has displayed sound personal qualities and integrity throughout his service and has enjoyed the respect of superiors, peers and subordinates alike. He was recommended to any future employer", but not to the armed services.

Other countries regard this type of ban as completely unnecessary and find it perfectly feasible to employ gays and lesbians. Among the NATO countries that have no ban are Canada; France, which has not had a ban for more than 200 years; Norway; Denmark; the Netherlands, which has had no ban for more than 20 years; Belgium; Spain; and Germany, which has no such ban on conscripts. Israel removed the ban in 1982. The Australians have a strict code on sexual behaviour, which is what I am proposing, but it has no ban. The Swiss have no such ban, nor has New Zealand. On this issue, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Turkey.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Is the hon. Lady aware that, today, I had a conversation with an Israeli reserve service man who told me that, not only is there no ban on gay or lesbian people in the Israeli army, but that a known Israeli homosexual was promoted as an officer? He has died, and the Israeli army is now considering whether it should award a pension to his male partner.

Mrs. Currie

The point is also well made that, whether with other NATO or United Nations personnel, there is absolutely no doubt that British troops have now served alongside gay service members from many other countries in many theatres of war without any problems arising. We also do not regard it as a matter of concern in other parts of the civilian services. There is no such ban in the police, and there is no such ban in the fire service.

If I am to be told—as no doubt I will be by my hon. Friend the Minister—that it is a matter of people being in close proximity to each other, I should remind him that we removed the ban for merchant seamen, and that we also removed the ban on gays serving in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. There have been no ill consequences of that. In fact, I think that it is probably now true to say that it is not only nice girls who love a sailor.

Mr. Brazier

My hon. Friend has not said how she feels about the overwhelming majority of serving personnel who do not want to have homosexuals in the military. [Interruption.] The German professional forces are the only major organisation in the European countries that she mentioned that has to recruit people rather than having conscripts, and they have the same ban as we do.

Mrs. Currie

I was going to come to that. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising it.

It seems to me that the reaction of the Ministry of Defence has been rather curious. As part of its approach, it commissioned a survey, a copy of which is in the Library. It seems bizarre that the MOD should commission a survey among soldiers. Its results were predictable. One might, indeed, have stuck the notice up on the mess board saying, "No gays wanted here", which is a paraphrase of what my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) has just said.

I venture to suggest that a similar outcome might have occurred if, for example, we had asked the Guards whether they wanted blacks serving with them. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister was a sub-lieutenant for three years in the 11th Hussars. Given the amount of wise-cracking that he has been indulging in this evening, perhaps one should dub him the gay Hussar, but there we are.

The Ministry of Defence did not ask soldiers whether women should serve in the armed forces as equals. I believe that if it had done so, it would have received much the same sort of response. But we did not invite the views of serving service men and women on whether females should be allowed to serve as equals. We told them that women would make good truck drivers, navigation officers and pay clerks. We tackled the issues of discipline and good order—more or less successfully, I believe.

The point is that we did not pander to prejudice on that issue. We did not encourage the enunciation of prejudice. We ensured that the armed forces obeyed the new rules and adapted to changed circumstances. We did so because we felt that the armed forces had no choice. But on gays, the Ministry of Defence has a choice. How much more impressive it would be if that choice were exercised with tolerance and dignity.

We have made some progress. Until a couple of years ago, the very fact of being a homosexual was a criminal offence in the armed forces. Yet the improvement is slight. What bothers me is the continued harassment and hounding of officers and ranks. It is official hounding and it appears to be encouraged the moment sexual orientation becomes suspect. In December 1995—a matter of only a few weeks ago—a former Royal Marine was approached in a gay pub in Torquay by a man who later invited him home. Upon leaving the bar, the man produced a Royal Marine military police warrant card and tried to arrest the person. He obviously did not know that the chap had left the Royal Marines some three years earlier, so no action could be taken.

Between September and November 1995, near Aldershot, a member of Rank Outsiders—the campaigning organisation—working on a gay men's health project observed frequent visits to a known cruising area by two men whom he knew were members of the Army special investigation branch. He knew that because they had conducted his investigation some time previously. During the visits he observed the SIB men making approaches to men who were of service appearance and attempting to pick them up.

So we have official agents provocateurs in the armed forces. Not only that, but we are spending quite a lot of money on surveillance. Portsmouth Royal Naval SIB put up a camera observation point in a building opposite Drummonds public house, a known gay bar. Former Able Seaman Brett Burnell was investigated after being photographed entering the pub by the SIB. He was shown the photos and has been discharged.

In 1995, four RAF officers who had been anonymously informed on were subjected to an intensive six-week operation by 12 members of the RAF SIB. The Ministry of Defence is supposed to be short of money, yet it had 12 senior officers of the RAF SIB spend six weeks watching four RAF officers. The evidence clearly shows that they were routinely followed throughout that period. They were informed by their commanding officers on discharge that the evidence from that operation was the justification for discharge.

I have always disapproved of civilian police spending their time taking pictures of public toilets, trying to catch the poor souls who get involved cottaging, because I think that the police ought to be catching real criminals. I take exactly the same view of the military special investigation branches. Surely they have some real cases that they ought to be chasing, and should not be chasing the people whom I have just described.

I have very little to add, except that in the 1990s homosexual men and women have seen attitudes to them change. Attitudes have become more liberal and less harsh in many fields. Homosexuals have been enabled to live with less fear and instead to play their part as ordinary tax-paying citizens, minding their own business like everyone else—but not yet in the armed forces. That is to their disadvantage, the forces' detriment and our country's shame.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

I and my colleagues will have a free vote on this issue, but as the spokesman for my party on defence issues, I have signed new clause 1 and I have made a strong recommendation to my right hon. and hon. Friends that they should vote for it.

The issue was considered by the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. I hope that I will not be thought to do an injustice to the Committee if I say that there is nothing very new in its analysis, as reported in its proceedings. Perhaps that is inevitable, because the ground that we are considering is well traversed. The only correct way to approach such an issue is on the basis of principle. I believe firmly as a matter of principle that there should be no discrimination against any person by virtue of race, colour or sexual orientation. In my judgment the issue is firmly rooted in the civil rights of every United Kingdom citizen.

Before we deny any citizen his or her civil rights, there must be overwhelming evidence to justify such a course of action. We deny the civil rights of terrorists because their conduct goes to the very existence of the state. Only in those extreme circumstances is it justified to detract from the civil rights of any individual. It is my judgment that that standard of evidence has not been shown in the circumstances that we are here considering.

The hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie) moved the new clause with great skill and sincerity. She has been notable for her courage in adopting the matter in circumstances which have not always made her entirely persona grata within her party. She mentioned the position in other armed forces. The Defence Select Committee has just returned from a three-day visit to Bosnia. We visited several units which are deployed there under the allied rapid reaction corps, of which the United Kingdom has overall command. Virtually all the countries that the hon. Lady mentioned are represented in that NATO deployment.

I did not hear a single British soldier say to me that the Dutch were less effective than the British because they had a different policy on homosexuality in the armed services. I did not hear it suggested that the contribution made by those who had gone to Bosnia from other NATO countries was diminished because those countries had a different policy from that of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) referred in an intervention to the attitude within our services. It is almost inevitably conditioned by the fact that the ban exists. The views of people in the services are conditioned by the ban.

If one feature of the ban should surely be offensive to all of us, it is the means of enforcing it. The hon. Member for South Derbyshire gave us some eloquent examples. Let us consider the nature of the investigations. They are degrading for those who are the subject of them and, I suspect, pretty degrading for those who have to carry them out. That type of investigation, and the use of agents provocateurs, would be outlawed in a civilian court. It would not be feasible to admit evidence obtained in that way. That is a feature of the matter that ought to be offensive to everyone in the House.

As the hon. Lady said, new clause 1 sets out the principle of no discrimination, but it also sets out other principles in plain language perhaps for the first time in legislation on service discipline. What are those other principles? Sexual conduct of any kind that prejudices good order and discipline is unacceptable and is an offence, as is sexual conduct of any kind which undermines the command relationship and the use of rank or position to obtain sexual favours. Those principles stand robustly behind the principle of non-discrimination at the centre of the new clause.

It would be much better for us to make a measured, sensible decision to change the policy rather than to be forced into it by the inevitable and ultimate judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

7.30 pm
Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

I shall follow the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie) and the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) by focusing on the last sentence of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech.

First, I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the fairness and courtesy with which he has received my representations on behalf of Rank Outsiders during the past year. However, I believe that he will invite the House to reject the new clause by praying in aid the following recommendation by the Select Committee: We do not recommend any change in the current policy. That recommendation was based primarily on the report that was commissioned by the MOD last year and that found that the armed forces did not want openly gay people to serve in the forces.

As the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said from a sedentary position in answer to the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) in the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire, had we adopted that attitude some 20 or 30 years ago in regard to black people and invited all the ranks to express a view on whether they wanted to shower with black people, the answer would have been exactly the same.

Prejudice is prejudice, whether it is racial or sexual, and prejudice is wrong. It must be outlawed. My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire and I do not always see eye to eye on matters relating to Europe. Today is Europe day, so it is an appropriate time for my hon. Friend to have introduced her new clause.

I want the House of Commons always to be the place where discrimination and prejudice are outlawed, but I should also refer to a point that was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East. Earlier this year, when four former members of the armed forces took their cases to the Court of Appeal, the Master of the Rolls said that it was likely that the blanket ban would be held to be in breach of article 8 of the European Convention. It is also possible that the European equal treatment directive will apply if those four ex-service men and women are successful in either of the relevant European institutions.

I want the House to imagine we are debating the same issue in 1998 or 1999. I am sure that the Conservative party will be embarking on an historic fifth term. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will have decided that, after nearly a decade as Prime Minister, it is time to become the Earl of Huntingdon. Perhaps, with the unanimous support of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who I regret is unable to be here today, will have become Prime Minister. Perhaps he will ask himself, "Who made such an excellent job of my dirty work during the debate in May 1996?", and promote my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces to the post of Secretary of State for Defence.

My fear is that in 1998 or 1999, whoever is Prime Minister, and whoever is Secretary of State, the Government—a Conservative Government or a Labour Government—will have a ruling against them from the European Court of Human Rights.

I remember the hapless late Lord Joseph coming to the House in 1985 to introduce legislation to outlaw corporal punishment in our schools. It was not a pretty sight. Most of my hon. Friends were thoroughly annoyed and angry by the introduction of such a measure. My late noble Friend said that he was very sorry and that he did not particularly want to introduce such legislation, but that he was required to do so because of a ruling against the United Kingdom by the European Court of Human Rights.

As I said earlier, I believe that the House of Commons should be the place to which those who suffer injustice and prejudice should come, but although I am a Euro-sceptic, I cannot blame those who cannot obtain justice from the House for exercising their right to go to the European Court and using the European convention.

I believe that one day—probably only two or three years hence—my hon. Friend the Minister or an Opposition Member in his post will be required to introduce legislation and there will not be a free vote. If we are still in power and my hon. Friend has been promoted to Secretary of State, he will be required to stand at the Dispatch Box and present a Bill. All my hon. Friends whose views differ from mine will be very angry that they will not have a free vote, as they were in 1985 when the late Lord Joseph was required to introduce the measure to which I referred.

It is inevitable that this ban will be outlawed—if not by the House of Commons, certainly by the European Court and probably by the European Court of Human Rights—and a Minister of the Crown will have to come to the House under duress to overturn it. I do not like to see Ministers under duress from outside organisations. I want them to right injustices because those injustices are patently wrong.

We understand that 300 to 400 service men and women have been discharged from the forces during the past three or four years. How many hundreds of service men and women who the special investigations branch have not yet found or have not yet been grassed up are quietly going about their daily business serving their country? They fought in the Gulf war and they serve all over the world, risking their lives for our country. Tonight there are gay people in the armed forces who have not yet been grassed up by the special investigations branch. If he cannot do so tonight, I believe that one day my hon. Friend the Minister will have to do something about this gross injustice. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to him for the manner in which he has always received the delegations that I have led on behalf of Rank Outsiders.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I shall not detain the House for long. It is more than a decade since, on behalf of the Labour party, I proposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the armed forces. I am only sorry we do not have a more powerful Whip on that today.

The reason why I reached that conclusion and recommended that course of action to my right hon. and hon. Friends was twofold. First, it was basically wrong that two individuals could be engaged in a sexual act that would be completely legal for one person, but for another it would be a disciplinary fault for which he would be dismissed from the armed forces. That seemed basically wrong in practice and in principle.

Secondly, I remembered the background to the Calcutt inquiry and its overtones of homosexuality, heterosexuality and blackmail. There could be nothing worse than for members of the armed forces to risk their careers, and perhaps through fear of blackmail, put their country at risk for doing something which, under proper circumstances, was accepted in civilian life. It seems wrong to put our service people in that position.

At the time, during the cold war, the pressures to which members of the armed forces—in that case it was in Cyprus, but also elsewhere—were subjected because of their sexual orientation and particular way of displaying it seemed very wrong. Those two reasons seemed compelling then, and they remain compelling. I urge my hon. Friends to consider the incongruity of the fact that one person can be disciplined and lose his job for engaging in an activity with another person for whom it is perfectly legal, and the dangers and pressures under which members of our armed forces could be put.

Mr. Wilkinson

This is probably the most important debate on the Bill. We must not be in any sense censorious—that is the last thing we want—but must seriously consider the evidence. Five years ago, I had the great privilege of chairing a Special Standing Committee on an armed forces Bill. It is an enormous merit of that procedure that hon. Members can take evidence from interested parties. On this occasion, the Committee reached in essence exactly the same conclusion that we did five years ago, when we recommended decriminalisation of homosexual behaviour in the armed forces—which the Government implemented.

We recommended also that homosexual behaviour was not compatible with remaining in the armed forces, because members of them did not want any change. After all, they are the best judges of the appropriate values for the organisations in which they serve. Those values may not seem to us identical to those that we normally share, but the profession of arms is a calling distinct from civilian life. Although those values may appear a bit traditional, for those who serve in the armed forces they are greatly appreciated. They are appreciated also by parents who are perhaps encouraging their children's aspiration to enter the armed services. If parents felt that the forces condoned homosexuality, a large number of them would do their best to resist the recruitment of their children.

Mrs. Currie

That is prejudice.

Mr. Wilkinson

My hon. Friend may say that, but I speak of the sort of family values that are held by most people in this country—and which the armed forces are called upon to defend, if necessary, with their lives. We ought to be chary before seeking to impose on the armed forces values that they do not want.

Mrs. Currie

It does not look as though my two daughters plan to enter the armed forces, but if they were to do so, I would be obliged to warn them that they were more likely to be killed or seriously injured than be the subject of homosexual attack.

Mr. Wilkinson

As my hon. Friend admitted, that is a purely hypothetical situation in respect of her children. I will not make my argument so subjective but will specifically address my hon. Friend's proposed new clause. Subsection (1) states: Sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, shall not constitute an offence under any provision of this Act unless that conduct—

  1. (a) is prejudicial, or may be prejudicial, to good order and discipline".
Members of the armed forces believe that homosexuality—because of its nature, the intensity of the emotions involved, and the risk of blackmail and of undue influence—is prejudicial to good order and discipline, particularly in the close confines required of service in the field, remote stations or on ships at sea.

Subsection (1)(b) of new clause 1 states that homosexuality shall not be an offence unless it undermines, or tends to undermine, command relationships". Again, that is true where there is favouritism—particularly of a sexual kind. That form of bonding can impair the necessary discipline and mutuality of respect inherent in the command relationship.

Subsection (1)(c) provides for an offence where the conduct involves the use of rank or position to obtain sexual favours". The armed forces have gradations of rank that may seem strange to my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie), but they are a necessary function of the command system. Almost inevitably with differences in age, there will be differences of rank. As there are bound to be such differences, there are also bound to be problems if homosexuality in the armed forces is condoned.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Has the hon. Gentleman never heard of a man in a senior position using his seniority to make unwanted sexual advances to a woman of junior rank, in civilian or Army life? The logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument is that there should be no women in the armed forces either.

7.45 pm
Mr. Wilkinson

I shall not follow the hon. Lady's intervention. Suffice it to say that differences of responsibility of rank accentuate the potential mutuality of attraction or the influence that one person may have over another. A homosexual dimension is a complication that the armed services can do without.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Wilkinson

I want to draw my remarks to a conclusion.

Many speakers in the debate cited the practices of the armed services of other countries. They are welcome to run their armed forces as they run their other institutions—according to traditions, values, history and patterns of behaviour that appear to them to be right and normal. The British armed services are essentially Regular forces because, except in times of emergency or war, we do not usually go in for conscription. We are selective and have particular standards and values, which do not include condoning homosexual behaviour. It may be that the matter will eventually go to the European Court of Justice and that the equal opportunities directive may be invoked, to seek to impose on the United Kingdom's armed forces a pattern of values with which the majority of service men are not happy.

My hon. Friend the Minister may recall an Adjournment debate in which I moved against the Ministry of Defence decision to grant compensation retrospectively to ex-service women required to leave the armed forces on the ground of pregnancy and thereby retrospectively gain huge sums in compensation. The MOD's decision to cede the principle has already cost the British taxpayer more than £50 million.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)


Mr. Wilkinson

Just as my hon. Friend says.

It is also wrong for the European Court of Justice to arrogate unto itself an intrusive right, because, under the treaty of union signed in Maastricht, defence remains a national responsibility—so manpower policies within the armed forces, including disciplinary provisions, should rest with member states. I hope that—in the unfortunate eventuality the ECJ is called on to adjudicate—the Government will resist—

Mr. Michael Brown

My hon. Friend means the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr. Wilkinson

I am talking about a decision based on the equal opportunities directive. I am not talking about a potential decision of European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, because we are a signatory to the convention, so I am excluding that court from my arguments. I am specifically addressing my arguments to the ECJ. If there were an adverse decision by the ECJ, I hope that the Government would refuse it because otherwise we would open a floodgate to retrospective compensation claims at great cost to the British taxpayer.

The majority of the British armed forces do not want any change in our rules on homosexuality; the Government have been entirely right to support that majority and to accept the advice of the Select Committee on the matter.

Mr. Kaufman

As the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) perhaps knows, I have considerable personal respect for him, but the speech that he made just now is the kind of speech, on subjects related to decent and sensible reform, that the House has heard for centuries. It is the kind of speech that is made when something that makes sense is being proposed by those who are trying to prevent what is inevitably going to happen. I shall refer to such matters a little more before I sit down.

Two points emerge so far from the debate, following the admirable speech by the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie). The first is the implication that, because a Select Committee of the House has made a report, the Government are bound by it. I only wish that was so in the case of the Select Committee on National Heritage, because, if so, the Government's confusions about listed sporting events and about Channel Four funding would have been eliminated at source.

The second question that arises in my mind—following the speech by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, the report of the Select Committee and much of the comment about the issue—is what, is it about members of the United Kingdom armed forces that makes them so vulnerable to seduction by homosexuals? What is it about them? Are they so fastidious, and are they so vulnerable in a way that service men in the rest of Europe, in other countries and in the state of Israel are not? Are we recruiting weaklings into our armed forces? That is the implication of the terrible danger that appears to be hanging over them, as advanced in the speech of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood.

The hon. Gentleman said that homosexuality is not compatible with membership of Her Majesty's forces. That is very strange to me, because I have a slight suspicion that there are large numbers of homosexuals in our armed forces today. I have a further suspicion that there have been homosexuals throughout history in our own armed forces and those of other great powers, and, somehow or other, we have managed to win wars all the same.

Is the implication that the official acceptance of homosexuality would bring discredit on our armed forces? If so, we should have proof that that has taken place. If I consider other cases in the armed forces, I see that a convicted murderer, Paratrooper Lee Clegg, has not only been retained in the armed forces after his release from prison, but has been promoted to lance-corporal and made second in command of an eight-man rifle section. It seems to be all right to promote a convicted murderer in our armed forces, but it would appear that people of a particular sexual orientation are more dangerous to the good name of our armed forces.

Three men, who have now been discharged from our armed forces, killed a woman, Louise Jensen, in Cyprus in the most brutal and appalling way. I do not gain any impression from reading press reports of that case that those were gay men who were driven to murder that woman so brutally, yet they have inflicted more discredit on our armed forces than anyone else I can remember in recent years—so much so that the Secretary of State for Defence has had to make a public apology for what took place.

Last night, I was reading "Roads to Ruin: The Shocking History of Social Reform" by E. S. Turner. He has looked at rearguard actions against sensible and decent reform over the centuries. What emerges from that great book is that the kind of untenable, illogical and prejudiced arguments that have been advanced against new clause 1, which I have signed, were advanced about all other kinds of social reform on which we would regard it as ludicrous that they should even have been debated.

Those reforms included stopping children and women going down coal mines; it was described as ridiculous to say that that was not a satisfactory or admirable state of affairs. The Plimsoll line has saved the lives of many seafarers, but it was said in the House that it was ludicrous that that elementary reform should be introduced.

A number of us have been in the House for many years and the kind of arguments that have been advanced by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood, and will no doubt be advanced by other Conservative Members tonight, are analogous to the very arguments that have been put in the House for generations, and that led to innocent men being hanged for murder. It has even been argued that we should take that risk.

We take a good deal of sanctimonious satisfaction from the role of the House of Commons. We are all proud—as I am—to be Members of the House of Commons, but we seem to imagine that the House has been a force for forward and inevitable reform over centuries and generations. The fact has to be faced that this is a House of belated reform, and a House that often does not get around to obvious, necessary and logical reforms.

It has to be said that the House has allowed a terrible amount of human suffering to take place because it has been so slow to accept logical and sensible arguments for reform. There is a great list of examples for anybody who studies Hansard over the decades, generations and centuries. This debate will eventually take its place in the annals of those debates, in which the House has shown itself reluctant to do the right, sensible and decent thing.

It may well be that new clause I will be defeated tonight, but the hon. Member for South Derbyshire is far too tough a campaigner to believe that that will be the end of the story. She will win, and all those who agree with her will win, but before she does, and before we do, we will have to go through some more years of hypocrisy and persecution. It is about time that the House did the right thing at the right time. Tonight is the right time.

Mr. Key

After more than decade of representing many thousands of service men and women in all three services, I have come to the conclusion that it would be right to support the status quo tonight. I have given that pledge to my military constituents and their families, and to all my constituents.

The argument stems from the military ethos, which filters down through the whole chain of command, and says straightforwardly that the military are different. Historically, it has been different for a very long time, and certainly since the county regiments were established. That is a fact. To understand it and the implications that flow from it, one either has to have served in the armed forces, which I have not, or to have undertaken the sort of investigation carried out by the Select Committee of which I have had the honour to be a member for the past four months.

We, the members of the Committee, talked to service men and women on and off duty in England, Northern Ireland and Germany. Initially, I thought that it was a put-up job. I thought that all the people lined up for us to speak to must have been hand-picked and told what to say. As the week went by, we met scores of people who continued to say the same thing.

I came to realise that, in the British armed forces, there is a deep and genuine conviction that homosexuals have no place in service life. Other people may not like that attitude, but it is a plain fact. The courts may not like it, and they may seek to change it. My greatest fear is that change may be forced on the services too fast, with all the attendant risks of recrimination, victimisation and real unrest. We should not add to those risks by agreeing to the new clause.

Change will come slowly when it comes. It will need a massive change of culture, and a massive re-education programme in the armed forces.

8 pm

Service men and women are not unreasonable people. I found it ironical that, while they were horrified at the thought of homosexuals in the forces, they accepted homosexuals in the rest of the community in civilian life. One service man told me that his brother was a homosexual, and that he had told him not to join the Army.

Recently, I was in Bosnia with the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). We visited forces from the United States, Canada and Holland. Like the hon. and learned Gentleman, I took the opportunity of asking about homosexuality in those forces. Only in the Dutch contingent did I find genuine acceptance of homosexuals.

In none of those forces did the nationals concerned believe that there was any threat to discipline, to undermining of command relationships or to operational effectiveness on the battlefield because of the presence of homosexuals. There was no suggestion in the British forces that in NATO British troops would not accept orders from those who might be homosexuals in other forces, or would refuse to serve alongside them.

I have much sympathy for the terms of the new clause. We shall return to the issue, but tonight is not the time to press it. The General Medical Council has been quoted, and I am disappointed that we have not heard from it. I fully understand that service doctors are part of the chain of command. The Standing Committee was told of harrowing events, such as the homosexual sailor who set off on a tour of duty of some months and realised after a few weeks that he had a genital problem. He realised that the ship's medical officer would be bound to take action leading to his discharge from the service. The sailor waited for four months before going to his family general practitioner at home. That is unacceptable and dangerous. It is dangerous to the sailor and to his colleagues. That is something that must be addressed.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

Would not the answer be to agree to the new clause? It seems that the burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument, and that of the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), is that homosexuals are much more likely than heterosexuals to behave in an improper fashion sexually, or in a more coercive fashion. What evidence is there that that is so? If there is none, as I believe, surely the logic is that those who oppose the new clause are prejudiced. We should oppose their prejudiced views.

Mr. Key

The answer is that there is no such evidence. If the hon. Lady will hear me out, she will understand why I take that point.

I talked about chaplains when the Bill was being considered in Standing Committee. There was a flurry in the national press, and then a rather tragic flow of correspondence in the Church Times. I had written to the Bishop of Her Majesty's forces asking for clarification from Bishop John Kirkham, the Bishop of Sherborne. The bishop replied on 1 May. His letter was duly published in the Church Times. The letter is important, because so many people were concerned that they could not trust chaplains.

The bishop wrote: The position is quite clear and is fully endorsed by the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Chaplain General and the Chaplain-in-chief (RAF). Chaplains in HM Forces are commissioned as chaplains and their status as officers in no way prejudices their absolute duty of confidentiality on all matters as priests and ministers of their respective Churches. This position is recognised by the authorities in the three Services. If individual chaplains have failed in their duty of confidentiality, for whatever reason, that is a matter of extreme regret and they have contravened their duty as chaplains. Whatever the courts may say, it is unacceptable and uncivilised for the forces of the Crown to recognise on the one hand that homosexuality in the armed forces is not a criminal offence, and then to make use of agents provocateurs or covert surveillance to expose homosexuals. The Select Committee was told that the Ministry of Defence has never discharged homosexuals for criminal offences; just being a homosexual is enough.

As a former military chaplain told the Church Times recently, those who have been offended by the practice of "outing" prominent people should remember that the Ministry of Defence has been doing it to its personnel for years. That is not something of which anyone can be proud.

Whatever the Committee decides this evening, we shall return to this issue.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

It is not fitting to condone prejudice and injustice in the armed forces any more than it is elsewhere in society. It is clearly prejudice that we are discussing. Some of the world's greatest and most famous soldiers have been homosexual. There is surely no Member of this place who would seriously seek to deny that, for many centuries, homosexuals have served in the British armed forces with distinction. With great courage, skill and patriotism, they have contributed to the service of their country. It is plainly an injustice that men or women, on account of their sexuality, should be denied the opportunity to serve their country in the armed services.

It would have been right for the Government to give the lead in seeking to undo the culture of prejudice within the armed services by banning discrimination on the ground of sexuality. Sadly, the Government have not chosen to do so. The new clause is plainly sensible and decent, and the Government should not hesitate to accept it.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

The points that I want to make have been succinctly set out in a letter that I wrote to the Select Committee on Defence. I shall repeat only one of them. What sticks in my craw, as much as anything, is the thought that, if a man has served in the armed service for perhaps 10 years—he may well have been decorated and subjected to the most extraordinary perils—and if by some mischance he has an accident and as a result of consequent medical examination is discovered to be a homosexual, even though he may have lived 180 miles away from the base and there has never been a flicker of a suggestion of improper, indecent or offensive behaviour, and he has been a model of discipline, he will lose his job. His livelihood and everything else will be lost. All he has done for the nation will be thrown away by sheer mischance and the prejudice that exists within the armed services.

It is not fair, it is entirely improper, and it flies in the face of the causes for which the armed services claim to stand.

Mr. Tony Banks

First, I congratulate the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie) on tabling the new clause. I also congratulate those who support her. The proposal has my support.

We have just heard a classic example of the theory of unsound time. Indeed, it has been put to us on two occasions, and both have involved the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). First, we were discussing the possibility of forgiveness and a pardon for so-called cowardice during the first world war. The hon. Gentleman showed no compassion. In effect, he said that it was too late. We have been told by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) that it is too early to agree to the new clause. It is too late on one hand and too early on the other. It is never too late and it is never too early to do something that is proper. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has made that clear.

The House will have to come round to the matter. It will have to be decided. The barrenness of the arguments from those who oppose the new clause shows that up. Those who oppose it are scraping the barrel. They start by paying fulsome tribute to those homosexuals whom they know have served the country and continue to serve the country. But still they say that they will, in effect, be condemned for their sexual orientation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Gorton gave us the example of the three sub-human heterosexuals in Cyprus. Is it so wonderful to be heterosexual in those circumstances? They are the sort of people who bring shame to our armed forces, not those homosexual men who loyally serve their country and are ready to die for it, yet are still treated abysmally by the House and the Government.

On the amendment moved by hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), the House revealed itself as having no compassion in terms of its majority. Now it appears to be revealing itself as homophobic as well. It is appalling to see the House of Commons behave in that way.

We have heard about the survey of the armed forces and told that somehow we must accept its results as sufficient evidence for the rejection of the new clause. I should like to know far more about that survey, although there is not time to go into the matter tonight.

I understand that no anonymity was given to those who were questioned. Who will come forward and say that they think that gays should be allowed to serve in the armed forces? Even if a person who did so was heterosexual, one could imagine what would be said to him afterwards. The finger of suspicion would be pointed at such people, whatever their sexual orientation. How can we possibly accept that the survey is socially just or statistically admissible?

It is no good saying that we will allow prejudice to determine policy. That is precisely what this is all about—not wanting homosexuals in the Army. I am sure that, if the same people were asked, they would say that they did not want blacks or even women in the Army. Shall we allow racists and sexists to determine national policy in Britain? That is not what we should be doing. We should not abrogate our power and responsibility to the British people, because those who are prejudiced say that they do not want any change in the way in which we organise the armed forces. We cannot accept that survey as acceptable on any terms.

We decide, and we must determine. The new clause is in time now, and to postpone it further is only to bring further disgrace on the House and further to alienate those gay men and women who have loyally served, and will continue so to serve, Britain's armed forces.

Mr. Viggers

I wish only to assure the House of the care and the concern that the Select Committee put into considering this issue. Knowing that the Ministry of Defence had commissioned an enormous report on the subject, I encouraged institutions and bodies with a special interest in the subject to submit evidence to us, and we took evidence from those who had a special interest in the subject.

During the past five months, the Select Committee, on its visits and in receiving evidence here in the House of Commons, has asked scores, even hundreds, of service men and others what their attitude is to homosexuality in the armed forces. I think that it is right that we should take account of the overwhelming response that came back, which is that they wish the status quo to continue.

The Select Committee considered the issue very carefully, and I am confident that the conclusion we reached is correct.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The ban on homosexuals and lesbians serving in the armed forces treats those people, and all homosexuals and lesbians in Britain, as second-class citizens. That should not be, and the ban should go.

There was no such discrimination in the second world war. According to statistics, at least 250,000 homosexuals served in the British forces during that war. One of those was a Mr. Dudley Cave, now aged 75. He was quoted in The Guardian yesterday, and I shall just read a little bit of the article: Cave recalls that neither the top brass nor fellow soldiers showed any concern about gay enlistees. 'There were none of the witch hunts that we have nowadays … Homosexual soldiers were more or less accepted. The visible gays were mostly drag performers in concert teams. Regarded with considerable affection, their camp humour helped lift the men's spirits'. Contrary to the current fears of the generals, during the war there was no evidence that homosexual soldiers undermined unit cohesion: 'All the gays and straights worked together as a team. We had to because our lives might have depended on it'. If that discrimination was unacceptable in wartime, it is unacceptable in peacetime as well, and I say that the ban should go.

Sex on duty or in the barracks is, of course, not acceptable. But that is the case with heterosexuals as well as homosexuals. However, what soldiers do in their private time should not be the subject of prurient investigation, disciplinary action and the sack. The ban is a gross breach of the civil liberties of those individuals, and it is almost certain that the United Kingdom will be found to be in violation of the European convention on human rights. That is why I support the new clause tonight.

8.15 pm
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I first say to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who was concerned about the threat of blackmail if we passed the new clause, and the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) who was concerned about the threat of victimisation: what on earth do they think is happening in the armed forces today? There is blackmail and victimisation because people are frightened that they will lose their jobs and be discharged if their sexuality is discovered. That is the situation.

I want to refer to the case of one of my constituents, Mr. John Beckett, with whom I have had correspondence and a lengthy conversation on his situation, which is most concerning and should worry every hon. Member.

John Beckett is a young man who had an exemplary record, to which the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie) referred in an excellent speech in moving the new clause. He was to be considered as an officer candidate. He had an unblemished record both in civilian and military life. He had given more than five years of his young life to the armed services. He was trained and extremely committed. Not only had he committed himself and a number of years of his life to his vocation, but thousands of pounds of public money had been spent on his training.

John Beckett told me that, when he entered the armed services, he did not know that he was gay. He subsequently had a relationship in civilian life. He never had a relationship with anyone in the armed services, either someone with whom he was serving closely or in another part of the armed services. He had one civilian relationship.

As a result of that, he spoke to the services' padre. On his advice, he went to his senior officer to report the situation. He was an honest and open young man, who was concerned about the situation and went to talk about it. As a result of volunteering that information, he was subjected to a most humiliating interview. I hope that it was as humiliating to the person who conducted it as it was to John Beckett, going, as it did, into every possible aspect of his private and personal relationships. I am not sure what they have to do with defending Britain in a proper manner. He was subsequently discharged.

John Beckett is now studying at college and wants to enter the fire service. I asked him how he now felt about the armed services; what his attitude was towards them. He said, "If Parliament was to change its view, I simply want to have the chance to go back and continue to serve my country. That is what I have always wanted to do, and it is still the view that I hold."

The House should know that John Beckett has not committed any crime—he has simply offended against bigotry and prejudice, and those who hold those views. The Select Committee has collected many pages of evidence, but, however many pages it collects, it cannot prove that bigotry and prejudice are right.

If we fail to pass the new clause tonight, John Beckett will not stand guilty of any crime, but we in the House will stand guilty of failing to allow him and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other young people the opportunity to serve Britain in the way that they have chosen simply because of their sexuality. I believe that to be wrong. I hope that the House passes the new clause.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I was impelled to investigate this subject, and, in particular, to read the Select Committee report, by a constituency case that was drawn to my attention. Hon. Members who are not present now might well have examined the issue more closely if they too had encountered such cases.

I was rather shocked by the Select Committee's approach, and will remain so unless the Minister or anyone else can give reasons for it. I served in the Army, and—understandably, I think; the majority of Army personnel, both male and female, are heterosexual—if I had been asked the question, I would have responded, "Let the position remain as it is." That is a natural response. I therefore do not think that, basing its view on that evidence, the Select Committee was particularly convincing.

The question is—a question that many hon. Members have asked—who knows? My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) gave examples of distinguished military personnel of the past. I thought of my comrades in the forces as people. One might have had ideas or suspicions, but that was as far as it went. It was what they did that counted, and I knew what they would do if we were in a tight corner. Fortunately, I never had that experience, but I could imagine it, and there is plenty of evidence that other qualities are what matter in such circumstances.

So it is a case of "Who knows?"—unless, of course, agents provocateurs are involved. I hope that, if this excellent debate achieves nothing else, it will lead the Secretary of State—he is not present now, but his Minister is—to review the policy on agents provocateurs. I hope that he will make it clear that the Government accept the view of the bishops, of which the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) reminded us, and will at least consider—perhaps not immediately—introducing the confidentiality that I believe should exist between doctor and patient and between Member of Parliament and constituent. Let us hope that at least those matters will be considered, whether or not the new clause is accepted.

I think that the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) is under a misapprehension. When I was commissioned, we were given a number of lectures. I should say that I held the commission of his late Majesty George VI, so this was some time ago. We were lectured about codes of conduct for officers—I should like to think that those codes now extend to all ranks, but that is by the way—and particularly about heterosexual behaviour with people in the area or with other officers' wives.

That code was fairly clear. Surely, in the end, it is codes of conduct rather than the letter of the law that count. I suggest to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood—who I believe was himself an officer in Her Majesty's forces—that what is important is the way in which our extremely wonderful instincts are used, and the degree of responsibility or irresponsibility with which they are used, irrespective of orientation.

I hope that the Minister will tell me what is wrong with the proposal for a code of conduct of the sort specified in new subsection (1). The subsection states that sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual"— which really means sexual conduct of any description— shall not constitute an offence except in certain circumstances. It would even be possible to remove the words "heterosexual" and "homosexual" from the legislation.

I also want to know why that provision cannot stand on its own. I realise that new subsection (2), which deals with disciplinary proceedings or discharge, may have legal implications, but surely that is consequential on the code of conduct specified in new subsection (1).

Let me deal with another issue that has not been mentioned so far. Her Majesty's forces contain both men and women, and, owing to gender differences, in normal circumstances—for obvious reasons—there is always more pressure on women. If a woman whose orientation is not known, as a result of her actions, an admission by her or any other indication does not respond as others hope, her susceptibility to, for instance, blackmail is different from that of a man in an equivalent position. Certain cases, well known from the newspapers, have shown that to be true.

I hope that, whatever happens tonight, the Minister will bear some of those background issues in mind.

Mr. Tony Banks

He is not even listening.

Mr. Spearing

I hope that he will listen. I hope that administrative action will be reviewed as a result of the debate;, and I hope that the Minister will tell us why he cannot accept new subsection (1)—if not now, at a later stage—rewording it as he wishes, but concentrating on responsible use of these wonderful powers that we all have, rather than contravention of good order and military discipline.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

When the Minister replies, I hope that he will touch on the report of the homosexuality policy assessment team to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) alluded, and, in particular, the experience in Australia, where the ban was lifted in 1992—notwithstanding the objections of a number of members of the joint chiefs of staff in Australia, who expressed the view that relaxation of the rule would be unacceptable.

According to the report, in Australia, after the initial outcry, homosexuality has become a non-issue. Exercising a flawed logic, however, the report then sets out a conclusion that is at variance with that statement: Australia enjoys a multi ethnic, multi cultural society with a considerable willingness, in the metropolitan areas at least, to accept sexual behaviour which, in the UK, is still regarded with a considerable degree of suspicion. Where has the Ministry of Defence been? It is based in London, for goodness' sake.

It is the conclusion of that report that has informed the Government's response to the new clause. It is time for Britain to fall in line with Australia, New Zealand and the other European countries, and it is time for the House to support new clause 1.

Dr. Reid

It goes without saying that the subject of homosexuality in the armed forces was the most sensitive subject, and certainly the most intractable, with which the Select Committee had to deal. It forced us to make a judgment, on balance, between a general principle and a specific duty, both of which are dear to the majority of hon. Members.

The general principle is that sexual orientation or preference, in itself, should not exclude a person from the opportunities that are available to others. Most hon. Members probably support that principle. The same applies to the specific duty—the burden of duty placed on hon. Members to ensure that those whom we may ask to risk, and possibly sacrifice, their lives in the defence of this country are given the maximum support in securing maximum operational effectiveness, and thus the minimum number of casualties. That judgment, on the relative priorities to be given to civil rights on one hand and military imperatives on the other is never easy, but it often has to be made in military life.

Our most precious freedom, freedom of speech, does not apply in the British military, nor does the right to engage in political or trade union activity—freedoms which are so valued by us and which we take for granted. Again, the right to resign and the right to privacy in the most intimate of social situations is severely curtailed. Occasionally, whole groups suffer the curtailment of such rights. Women are excluded from combat units, and legislation incorporating the rights of disabled persons specifically excludes the military. These are always difficult decisions, but the blanket nature of the ban on homosexuals and lesbians makes that judgment, for me anyway, even more anguished.

8.30 pm

There will be a free vote on this issue, so I can speak only for the Labour Members of the Committee. We approached the problem with three initial premises. The first was that it was no part of our task to make moral judgments on sexual orientation; nor are there grounds for questioning the professionalism, dedication, courage or patriotism of homosexuals, individually or as a group.

The second premise was that we were dealing with a practical decision which takes effect not in general, not in the abstract or in civilian life, but within real life in the British armed forces. Finally, we are dealing with today's armed forces. In Britain, however enlightening foreign or historical comparisons may be, there is no perfect blueprint that can be automatically transposed, although, God knows, sometimes we wish that there were.

On the basis of those premises, when we cut through the fog, the propaganda and the prejudice, three essential questions remain. First, would allowing homosexuals openly to join the armed forces tend to weaken operational effectiveness? Secondly, would it be possible in the imposed social intimacy of the armed forces to guarantee the right to privacy of the sexual preference of homosexuals and the right to privacy of heterosexuals? Thirdly, is there an obvious compromise that might satisfy both sides?

I shall deal first with the question of operational effectiveness. As we know, the army's purpose is to fight. Whatever additional tasks it is given and irrespective of what other armies are constructed for, the purpose of the British Army is to fight and to win. Humanitarian or civil tasks are in addition to that, not a substitute for it. The burden that Parliament places on the members of our armed forces is to fight and win, even if they have to sacrifice not only their liberty but their lives.

The fighting power of a force consists of three elements. There is the conceptual element of tactics, doctrine and strategy; the resources element, which means the physical resources that we provide; and morale.

In military life, morale fulfils a purpose that is different from its normal usage. In military terms, it is both more specific and more comprehensive. It includes not only matters such as belief in a just cause or pride in the regiment's traditions but also, and crucially, ordered relations within a unit, absolute trust in one's comrades and absolute confidence in one's leaders. Those are the qualities that motivate a soldier to fight, and fight better than his enemy. If they are diminished, so is the command structure, the cohesion and the operational effectiveness of the military unit.

Among the factors that are most likely to undermine that mutual confidence, obedience and cohesion is the existence or the perceived existence of a special relationship between particular members of a unit, especially a relationship of a romantic or sexual nature.

Mrs. Currie

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, if a relationship was seen in any way to be damaging to discipline, I would be against it as well? What concerns us is that, when no such relationship is going on and discipline is not damaged, these people can still be dismissed.

Dr. Reid

I shall cover that when I deal with the hon. Lady's clause. I shall later deal with the difference between having a code of conduct to deal with incidents when they arise, and increasing the circumstances that are likely to give rise to more incidents.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Dr. Reid

I shall certainly do that when I have finished this part of my speech.

Relationships which damage cohesion, such as those of a romantic or sexual nature, are particularly damaging. In situations in which such special relationships are most likely to develop in the armed forces, personnel are separated by gender. Therefore, as a matter of course in the armed forces, in the most intimate situations that are likely to lead to special relationships, a heterosexual is separated from the potential object of his or her sexual preference. Precisely the opposite circumstances would obtain for homosexuals, as they would be integrated in units with members of their own sex. That is the key problem, and it does not relate to prejudiced allegations of increased potential for promiscuity among homosexuals.

Mr. Galloway

I sympathise with my hon. Friend in his difficult job with his brief. He must be aware of the inherent and enormous contradiction between what he is saying and the obvious fact that it is possible and acceptable to be a homosexual member of a war Parliament or a war Cabinet, or a homosexual Secretary of State for Defence but not to be a homosexual private in the Royal Corps of Signals. There is an inherent absurdity in that proposition.

I put to my hon. Friend another contradiction in case he is not aware of it. I shall put to him a fantastic hypothesis. Suppose there were two homosexual members of a war Cabinet. Would that mean that that war Cabinet's effectiveness in waging and directing war might be compromised by a special relationship that might exist between those two Cabinet members?

Dr. Reid

I shall reply to my hon. Friend's points in reverse order. My hon. Friend asks about a war Cabinet. It is obvious that he completely missed the distinction that I drew between civilian and military life. My hon. Friend has given me a poisoned chalice. Without being facetious, I shall try to answer his first point. The difference between a Secretary of State for Defence and a member of an army unit is that the Secretary of State does not have to sleep every night with the Minister for Procurement or the Armed Forces Minister. [Laughter.] However, the member of an armed unit might have to sleep with a comrade.

I am not trying to bring levity to this sensitive and intractable subject. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens want a serious debate. I do not suggest for a minute that such special relationships destroy operational effectiveness. I am suggesting that they would weaken operational effectiveness and in battle such a reduction could mean the loss of lives as well as the loss of battles.

I do not underestimate the weight of the arguments that have been advanced tonight because no liberty held to be precious in civilian society can be negated in the military as a matter of course or without justification. Prejudice is no ground on its own for the continuation of past practice, but nor can practical problems be wished away.

Sir Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)

I will be supporting the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie), but the hon. Gentleman is indulging in disgraceful weasel words. He has tried to stand on both sides of the fence at the same time. He represents the Opposition Front-Bench team, which hopes one day to form a Government. If it cannot give leadership one way or the other, it is not fit to govern.

Dr. Reid

First, I have already made it plain that, for Labour Members, there is a free vote. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman can accuse me of many things tonight; one of them might not be representing Labour Members behind me, but to suggest that it shows cowardice or a lack of courage to put the argument that I am advancing is nonsense.

I do not underestimate those arguments about civil liberties, but there is another argument that, if that was controversial, is, I appreciate, even more sensitive, but must be put because it is felt generally to be important by members of the armed forces. I accept that their views are not sufficient to continue a ban, but they are one of the necessary elements that must be considered.

The argument involves a genuine concern that was put to me by a female soldier and it crystallises the case, so I can be brief. She said, "Dr. Reid, even in the imposed social intimacy of the Army, you and your colleagues at Westminster would defend my right to refuse to share the most intimate experiences of sleeping, sharing and bathing with a man. You would do that not because you assume evil intention on the part of the man, but because it offends my sensibilities as a woman, because it may offend my sense of privacy or decency or because I may feel that I am the object of inquisitive sexual observation by the man, but all the reasons why you would give me that right would be on my perceptions, not on the intentions of the man. If you change this rule, will you give me the right to protect my privacy if I refuse to shower with one of my lesbian colleagues?" I did not have a satisfactory answer for her then and, frankly, I do not now.

That sums up the second intractable conflict between trying to give the homosexual rights of privacy while balancing them with the heterosexual rights of privacy in the armed forces.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that those of us who served on the Select Committee and who talked to serving men and women think that some of their views, although my hon. Friends might not agree with them, deserve better consideration than being denounced as mere homophobia, and that they are genuine concerns? Their concerns about operational efficiency led me, him and other hon. Friends to put our names to the report.

Dr. Reid

I agree. Individuals have a range of feelings that are often difficult to classify because they range from irrational prejudices to moral perceptions. Sometimes, that distinction is not made, although I must say to my hon. Friend, who has been helpful, that there are hon. Members who will be in the same Division Lobby as me tonight who sometimes seem incapable of presenting a logical argument because they are blinded with prejudice.

There are logical, objective grounds for qualifying what is a very valuable civil right to preserve effectiveness. However, it is honourable and legitimate to say that the weight of the civil liberties argument is sufficiently great to overcome both the operational reduction in effectiveness and the case for privacy for heterosexuals. There is nothing dishonourable in making that balance and in arriving at a judgment that is different from mine, but the Labour Members of the Select Committee were not persuaded that that change was necessary.

I say again, however, that the decision was on balance. It was not taken lightly or without agonising. We fully recognise the clash of principle and the practical problems. We do not argue that the present position is perfect and, in particular, we entirely concur with tonight's speeches that have been directed at entrapment, agent provocateurs, harassment and, on occasions, disgusting treatment, which should not be meted out to any citizen in this country, in any condition. I have no time for any of that, and I hope that it will be stopped immediately.

8.45 pm
Mr. Michael Brown

I fully understand the particular responsibility that goes with the hon. Gentleman's position, the more so because he aspires to occupy the Treasury Bench, but the country needs to know what the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) would do if they ever became Ministers and were forced to act as a consequence of a European Court of Human Rights directive.

Dr. Reid

I was coming to the European Court of Human Rights, although I think that the hon. Gentleman will be slightly disappointed.

We have not argued that the position will never change. It will obviously be reviewed again during the next Parliament. No one here could be stupid enough to think that the issue will go away. I cannot imagine that it will not recur for reconsideration. It is not our job to guess the what the European Court of Human Rights will do, but we are aware that it is likely to be asked to issue a ruling on this matter during the next Parliament. We will have to cross that bridge when we come to it.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

Although I will be in a different Lobby from my hon. Friend tonight and disagree with what he says, I respect the way in which he is putting his argument. On returning to the issue in future, does he agree that, if the new clause is defeated tonight, the people who believe, as I do, that the current position is wrong—and that should include the Government—must go out and sell the case to the armed services that they should no longer peddle prejudice as an excuse for excluding people from the armed services?

Dr. Reid

If I were advocating the case to members of the armed services, I would first stop trying to portray them as a bunch of redneck, thick-skulled and prejudiced bigots, although I am not saying that my hon. Friend is doing that. It is not helpful when they live in particular circumstances, deprived of the right to leave. Any of us tonight can choose which room to leave. We can choose to go if we do not like the company that we are sleeping with. In the morning, we can remove ourselves from a position that we find offensive. We do not have to shower with people. Members of the armed forces cannot make those choices. Let us recognise at least that their views are of merit, even if we must weigh in the balance the great issue of civil liberties.

Do not let us pretend—I do not think for a minute that the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) has done so—that there is an easy or painless answer. Whatever decision is taken tonight or in the next Parliament, people will be hurt. Homosexuals or heterosexuals will be disappointed, perhaps angry. Whichever way the vote goes, one group or another will have their rights diminished, but, for the majority of hon. Members, it will not be a decision that is taken lightly because the curtailment of liberties or the loss of lives are considerations that rank highest in everything that we hold to be precious in the House. Whatever happens, the people who will then be asked by us to remain the ultimate defender of both those liberties and those lives will be the men and women of our British armed forces.

Mr. Soames

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire (Mrs. Currie) on the sensible, measured and passionate way in which she introduced this important debate. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and thank him for the extraordinary courtesy that he has shown me during the time that we have been discussing what is a very difficult matter for the armed forces.

We have had a useful debate and many of the most important issues have been aired. I propose to deal with them. I am grateful to my hon. Friends for providing with their amendment this opportunity to have a debate that has been waiting in the wings for several months. I am sure that they will have a pretty good idea of what I am about to say.

The services' policy on homosexuality is hardly a secret, and nor are the reasons underpinning it. That said, I shall start, perhaps surprisingly, by saying that much of the new clause causes us very little difficulty. Much of it is already unnecessary. We announced in 1992 that we had accepted the recommendation of the Select Committee on the previous Armed Forces Bill that homosexual acts which were legal in civilian life should no longer constitute offences under service law. The only extra condition was that the act should not involve the commission of a service offence such as the abuse of rank or other behaviour prejudicial to good order and discipline. That change in policy took immediate effect, but we were not able to make the necessary change to the legislation under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

It is difficult to see how the first part of the amendment adds to what Parliament has already achieved. However, we have to vote on the whole amendment and my hon. Friends have insinuated into the middle of their amendment a sentence that is designed to change the services' policy on the exclusion of homosexuals, contrary to the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee which has been considering the Bill. I shall concentrate the rest of my remarks on the Government's response to that issue.

The current policy of excluding homosexuals from the armed forces is not—I repeat, not—the result of a moral judgment. The prime concern of the armed forces is the maintenance of operational effectiveness and our policy derives from a practical assessment of the implications of homosexual orientation on military life. I do not believe that the services have a right to be different, but I firmly believe that they have a need to be different.

The conditions of military life are truly very different from civilian life. The hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) made that point very well. Service personnel are regularly required to live in extremely close proximity to one another in shared, single-sex accommodation with limited privacy and sometimes under stressful conditions. They may have to work for long hours in physically close quarters, sometimes for long periods under demanding circumstances. We believe that those conditions, together with the need for absolute trust and confidence between all ranks, require that the potentially disruptive influence of homosexual orientation and behaviour be excluded.

As hon. Members will recall, the legality of our policy was challenged in the High Court last year by four former members of the services who had been discharged on the ground of their homosexuality. The court found that the policy was lawful and that ruling has been upheld by the Court of Appeal. Just recently, the House of Lords has refused leave to appeal further, so the lawfulness of our policy has been further vindicated.

Mr. Tony Banks

Does hon. Gentleman accept that there is undoubtedly a considerable number of homosexuals within the armed forces now? He must know that to be a fact. How is that affecting operational efficiency now?

Mr. Soames

There may well be some homosexual personnel in the armed forces but they choose to keep that to themselves. That is a matter for them. [Interruption.] I will deal with that later.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes mentioned the European Court. One can only speculate about what the European Court might say in several years' time because the issue has never been tested before it. We have considered the issue thoroughly, both as to what is required as a matter of national policy and the potential legal consequences. Our decision, in legal terms, is entirely respectable. We believe that our decision is the right one, and we will defend it robustly in any court.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

When considering their position, did the Government consult other Governments, in countries such as Australia, where the law has been changed in the way suggested in the amendment and where they apparently have not experienced the practical difficulties that have been referred to by those who oppose the amendment?

Mr. Soames

The answer is, yes, we did consult other Governments. I shall deal with that point later, because it is extremely important.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire mentioned costs and the cost to the taxpayer. The basis of all the various figures that are bandied about is uncertain. What is clear from the review report is the significant adverse effect that a change of policy would have on recruitment and retention—I urge the House to accept that that is true—with the considerable cost penalties that would result.

Several hon. Members mentioned agent provocateurs. Evidence was given to the Select Committee by witnesses in the Ministry of Defence that the service police are not allowed to carry out agent provocateur activity when inquiring into allegations of homosexual activity. I wish to assure the House that I will not tolerate such action.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) raised the question of a code of conduct.

Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing)

On the use of resources, does my hon. Friend agree that it would not be a sensible, economic or efficient use of resources to identify those who are homosexual and who, in his own words, wish to keep it to themselves?

Mr. Soames

Yes, I agree with my right hon. Friend.

While a new code of conduct might appear to be symmetrical in its effect on heterosexuals and homosexuals, it would not solve the problem of anticipated loss of cohesion or operational effectiveness caused by the knowledge or strong suspicion of the sexual identity of homosexual personnel. We do not believe that a code of conduct, no matter how rigorously enforced, would adequately address the issues of privacy or decency and it would not be possible or desirable to provide separate facilities for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

What the Minister has just said is tantamount to saying that this is gesture politics. I am one of the diminishing band of hon. Members who went through the whole of the second world war. There was no discrimination then. I was in no fewer than seven troop ships carrying men and women to the four corners of the globe to fight on behalf of the nation. There were no questions about homosexuality then. What the Government are saying is the height of hypocrisy. If there was a war tomorrow, there would be no discrimination against homosexuals or lesbians. They would be dragged in just as they were in 1939.

Mr. Soames

That was a splendid sally from the hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I will, if I may develop my argument in my own time.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) asked about other countries, and the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) has just done the same. The report went into great detail on the matter and covered many different countries, and we are aware that in some countries homosexuality is not a formal bar to service, although there may be restrictions on the areas in which homosexuals are employed and on their career progression.

However, we do not consider that the policies of other countries towards their armed forces are necessarily relevant to our own, as they may be influenced by other factors, such as conscription and domestic employment laws. The situation in other countries simply cannot be compared with that of our armed forces, which are, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland knows, wholly different from conscript armies and other foreign operators.

Several hon. Members have referred to comparisons with race and sex discrimination. However, the review report shows that homosexuality creates insoluble problems of decency and privacy, as race and gender do not. I shall quote an extract from a report by General Colin Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in America: Unlike race or gender, sexuality is not a benign trait. It is manifested in behaviour. While it would be decidedly biased to assume certain behaviours based on gender or membership in a racial group, the same is not true for sexuality. We have successfully mixed rich and poor, black and white, male and female, but open homosexuality in units is not just the acceptance of benign characteristics such as colour or gender or background. It involves matters of privacy and human sexuality that, in our judgment, if allowed to exist openly in the military, would affect the cohesion and well-being of the force. It asks us to deal with fundamental issues that the society at large has not yet been able to deal with".

Mr. Betts


Mr. Soames

No, I must get on.

I now wish to return—

Mr. Betts

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Soames

No, I will not.

I wish now to return to the subject of Great Britain. The High Court recommended that we should review our policy in the light of changing social circumstances, and of the experience of other countries where homosexuality is not a formal bar to service. Accordingly, the internal review was carried out.

The review took into account the policies and practices of overseas armed forces, the views of serving personnel, the advice of senior military commanders and the full range of evidence presented in the report. The report of the assessment was placed in the Library on 4 March.

After detailed consideration of the available evidence, the assessment team concluded that homosexuality remained incompatible with service life, if the armed forces were to be maintained at their full potential operational effectiveness. The team recommended that there should be no change in current policy. My Department has accepted that recommendation and, as I said earlier, the Select Committee, after much careful deliberation, agreed that there should be no change in the policy.

Both the evidence contained in the assessment team's detailed and thorough report, and that given in open session to the Select Committee, show that the presence of openly homosexual men and women in the armed forces would have an adverse effect on morale and unit cohesion.

Mr. Betts

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Soames

No, I will not.

That presence would also affect operational effectiveness. That we cannot risk, and we shall not accept it.

Uncertainty and suspicion about the sexual orientation of fellow service personnel are just as likely to cause unease, polarise relationships and disrupt unit cohesion as overt homosexuality.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Soames

No, I will not. I must get on.

It would be quite wrong to ignore the strongly held views of the majority of service men and women that the admission of homosexuals would have a detrimental effect on operational effectiveness, and I shall not do so. In the face of all the evidence presented by my Department, of substantial submissions both oral and written from those who wished to change the policy, and also of the evidence that it gathered privately, the Select Committee concluded that the policy should continue.

If collective professional judgments about operational effectiveness are simply to be defined away in advance as irrelevant prejudice unless they fit abstract principles of equal treatment, service men and women will be silenced and disfranchised by a decision that would affect them more than anyone else. That would both be morally questionable and put at risk the cohesion and fighting power of our armed forces.

Mr. Tony Banks


9 pm

Mr. Soames

It is not rubbish.

It is significant and perhaps inevitable that the most widely reported spokesman of the homosexual movement, Sir Ian McKellen, took exactly that attitude. He said: Why are Ministers even asking the military? The not so hidden agenda of those who want to change Ministry of Defence policy is to steamroller aside the judgments, experience and wishes of the military.

Although we have no desire to discriminate against homosexuals, or indeed against any other minority, the Government will not capitulate to such doctrinaire attitudes. What is special about the military is the fact that we expect them to exhibit commitment and self sacrifice beyond that of any other professional group and, if need be, to sacrifice their lives. They put their trust in the Government and it would be immoral, as well as operationally highly detrimental, to overrule or ignore them.

Let me make it clear—this is not about homophobia in the armed forces. Rather it is a clear indication of the ability of service men and women to differentiate between their own personal views on homosexuality—which are often tolerant and sympathetic—and what they nevertheless perceive to be the effect of homosexuality in a military environment. I know that no Member of the House will vote on the new clause without having carefully weighed up the issues. These are not simple, since they summon up an apparent conflict between individual rights and wishes—which none of us lightly sets aside—and the moral cohesion, effectiveness and fighting power of the armed forces.

The services of this country are very special, and they are a unique and extraordinary asset to our nation. They serve us faithfully and well, and they are—by and large—men and women of a quality not found in any other institution in the land. The extraordinarily gallant record of our armed forces—in the Falklands, through 25 years of exceptional gallantry and skill on the streets and countryside of Northern Ireland, in the Gulf, and today in Bosnia, Rwanda and Angola—is beyond compare.

My overriding duty must be to maintain the effectiveness of our armed forces. In my view, that should also be the prime concern of the House of Commons. In my view, the armed forces have earned the right to be allowed to get on with the job they do so well and not be bludgeoned out of the standards, traditions and esprit de corps that has won Great Britain every war in which we have engaged since 1812. That being the case, I strongly urge the Committee to reject the new clause.

Mrs. Currie

This has been a superb debate, showing the House of Commons at its very best. I would like to thank those hon. Members from both sides of the House who have expressed their support for the new clause. The matter is already before the European Court of Human Rights, which we helped set up four decades ago. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about democracy?"' I say to my hon. Friends that I agree with them. I would rather that this House decided on the issue. The Committee has the power to do so, and it should decide tonight.

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

The House divided: Ayes 120, Noes 188.

Division No. 125] [9.07 pm
Allen, Graham Fyfe, Maria
Alton, David Galloway, George
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Garrett, John
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Gerrard, Neil
Barnes, Harry Godman, Dr Norman A
Barron, Kevin Godsiff, Roger
Battle, John Gordon, Mildred
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, Andrew F Harvey, Nick
Bermingham, Gerald Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Betts, Clive Hayes, Jerry
Boateng, Paul Heppell, John
Bowden, Sir Andrew Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Bradley, Keith Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Hoyle, Doug
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hughes, Simon (Southward)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Burden, Richard Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Byers, Stephen Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Jowell, Tessa
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)
Carrington, Matthew Kirkwood, Archy
Chidgey, David Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Chisholm, Malcolm Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Loyden, Eddie
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) McFall, John
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Mackinlay, Andrew
Coffey, Ann Maclennan, Robert
Corbett, Robin McMaster, Gordon
Corbyn, Jeremy McNamara, Kevin
Corston, Jean Madden, Max
Cousins, Jim Martlew, Eric
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Meacher, Michael
Darling, Alistair Michael, Alun
Davidson, Ian Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Milburn, Alan
Denham, John Miller, Andrew
Dobson, Frank Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Dowd, Jim Mullin, Chris
Etherington, Bill Murphy, Paul
Fatchett, Derek O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Pike, Peter L
Fisher, Mark Pope, Greg
Foster, Don (Bath) Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Fraser, John Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Quin, Ms Joyce Soley, Clive
Rendel, David Straw, Jack
Roche, Mrs Barbara Timms, Stephen
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent) Tyler, Paul
Salmond, Alex Vaz, Keith
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Wallace, James
Sedgemore, Brian Watson, Mike
Short, Clare Wray, Jimmy
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, Andrew (Oxford East) Mr. Tony Banks and
Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Mr. Harry Cohen.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) George, Bruce
Alexander, Richard Gill, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Amess, David Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Arbuthnot, James Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Gorst, Sir John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Baldry, Tony Grylls, Sir Michael
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald
Bellingham, Henry Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Beresford, Sir Paul Hannam, Sir John
Booth, Hartley Hargreaves, Andrew
Boswell, Tim Harris, David
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Hawkins, Nick
Bowis, John Hawksley, Warren
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Heald, Oliver
Brandreth, Gyles Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Brazier, Julian Hendry, Charles
Bright, Sir Graham Horam, John
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Browning, Mrs Angela Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Burt, Alistair Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Jack, Michael
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Key, Robert
Carttiss, Michael King, Rt Hon Tom
Cash, William Kirkhope, Timothy
Chapman, Sir Sydney Knapman, Roger
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Coe, Sebastian Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Colvin, Michael Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Congdon, David Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Conway, Derek Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Legg, Barry
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Couchman, James Lewis, Terry
Cran, James Lidington, David
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Day, Stephen Lord, Michael
Dixon, Don Luff, Peter
Dover, Den MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Duncan, Alan MacKay, Andrew
Dunn, Bob Maclean, Rt Hon David
Durant, Sir Anthony McLoughlin, Patrick
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Madel, Sir David
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Maitland, Lady Olga
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Malone, Gerald
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Mans, Keith
Evennett, David Marlow, Tony
Faber, David Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Fabricant, Michael Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Fenner, Dame Peggy Mellor, Rt Hon David
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Merchant, Piers
Fishburn, Dudley Mills, Iain
Forman, Nigel Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Forth, Eric Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Moss, Malcolm
French, Douglas Nelson, Anthony
Gale, Roger Neubert, Sir Michael
Garnier, Edward Nicholls, Patrick
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stephen, Michael
Norris, Steve Streeter, Gary
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Sweeney, Walter
Ottaway, Richard Sykes, John
Page, Richard Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Paice, James Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patnick, Sir Irvine Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Patten, Rt Hon John Temple-Morris, Peter
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thomason, Roy
Pawsey, James Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pickles, Eric Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Porter, David (Waveney) Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Rathbone, Tim Turner, Dennis
Reid, Dr John Viggers, Peter
Richards, Rod Walden, George
Riddick, Graham Waller, Gary
Robathan, Andrew Ward, John
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Watts, John
Wells, Bowen
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Whittingdale, John
Sackville, Tom Widdecombe, Ann
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Wilkinson, John
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford) Willetts, David
Shersby, Sir Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Snape, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Soames, Nicholas Wood, Timothy
Spellar, John Yeo, Tim
Spencer, Sir Derek Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Spink, Dr Robert Mr. Simon Burns and
Steen, Anthony Dr. Liam Fox.

Question accordingly negatived.

Forward to