HC Deb 05 July 2000 vol 353 cc336-70 '( ). In section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986 (prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material), at the end of subsection (2) there is inserted'; or (b) prevent the headteacher or governing body of a maintained school, or a teacher employed by a maintained school, from taking steps to prevent any form of bullying.'.—[Mr. Waterson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.45 pm
Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

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

Madam Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 7, in page 74, line 2, leave out clause 98.

No. 6, in clause 102, page 75, line 9, leave out from beginning to end of line 14 and insert— 'paragraph 63 of Schedule 37 to the Education Act 1996'.

Mr. Waterson

The new clause and amendments concern what is euphemistically known as "section 28", but more accurately as section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986. Their effect would be pretty straightforward: they would simply return the Bill to its state when it left the House of Lords a little while ago. They would, in fact, do two things. They would reinstate section 28—as I shall continue to describe it, euphemistically—and they would reinstate their lordships' amendment relating to bullying. In other words, Opposition Members seek to overturn the amendments made by the Government in Committee.

We may have to return to this, but it occurs to me that it might be convenient, in due course, somehow to engineer a vote not on new clause 2 but on amendment No. 7, the key amendment in the group. It seeks to leave out clause 98—in other words, to reinstate section 28, or section 2A. I hope that that is reasonably clear.

Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter)

I am sure that, in the wake of the conviction of the London nail bomber, the hon. Gentleman, like all other Members, would want to condemn homophobia in all its manifestations. Why, then, does the Conservative party continue to support this nasty little homophobic piece of legislation?

Mr. Waterson

I will not co-operate with the hon. Gentleman's nasty little press release; but if he has any grown-up contributions to make to this serious and, indeed, narrow, debate, no doubt he will try to catch your eye, Madam Speaker.

Our position, which has been consistent throughout, is very clear. It has never had anything to do with bigotry, prejudice or intolerance. Homosexuality is a personal and private choice for consenting adults, and that is as things should be. This provision, however, has never had anything to do with any of that; it is simply to do with whether public money should be spent in schools on promoting homosexuality among children.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Waterson

No. I want to make a little progress, because I think some Members are becoming slightly overheated. I intend to deal with every point that they are either muttering about from a sedentary position, or seeking to intervene on.

The first point to make—one that the Minister conceded in Committee—is that the Government's proposal was not in the manifesto for the last general election, although, curiously, it was in the manifesto for the 1992 election. I do not know whether the Government still intend to whip their Members for the vote, but no doubt their ability to do so will depend partly on what I have just said.

This nasty little provision is typical of the Government's attitude. We believe that it is based not on principle, but on spin and political correctness. The proposal to repeal section 28—as I shall call it for ease of reference—is on a par with the Prime Minister's ill-fated remarks about cashpoint criminals. It is cheap gesture politics. It is designed to curry favour with the gay and lesbian community, and, in its early stages, it was designed to be part of the Prime Minister's again ill-fated attack on what he was good enough to call the forces of conservatism.

Sadly for the Government, it turned out that those forces actually represent most people in the country. It is interesting to note that, in a recent survey in the Prime Minister's constituency, 71 per cent. of his constituents—of whom 63 per cent. were Labour voters—said that they wanted section 28 to be retained. It is also noteworthy that the leaders of all the major religious groups take a similar view.

Mr. Bradshaw

That is a lie.

Madam Speaker

Order. I heard that.

Mr. Bradshaw

I apologise, Madam Speaker, and I will retract what I said. Nevertheless, I would like some evidence, because the hon. Gentleman is wrong.

Madam Speaker

That is another matter. We will not have that sort of language in the House.

Mr. Waterson

I am afraid the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw) will have to contain himself, Madam Speaker. I have got as far as page 2 of my remarks.

Although more heat than light has been generated on this issue, it is instructive to look at the history. The provision first saw light as a Back-Bench amendment. The Minister glowers—[Interruption.] We are going to have a serious and restrained debate on the matter, whether Labour Members like it or not.

The amendment was tabled originally by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), and was later supported by the Government. The 1987 debate are interesting. Given all the words expended on the issue since, it is worth noting that the amendment was accepted in Committee without a Division.

Indeed, there seems to have been quite a constructive debate about the correct way to address what was clearly perceived to be a problem. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said that the earlier part of what was then clause 28 of the Local Government Bill was a proper statement on what should be the role of local authorities.—[Official Report, 15 December 1987; Vol. 124, c. 990.] However, it is fair to say that the hon. Gentleman clearly had criticisms of the rest of the clause. In an amendment, he proposed that the word "commend" be used in place of "promote"—the word that has caused so much controversy. If that had been accepted, one wonders how it might have changed the way in which the provision has been perceived.

Dr. Harris

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that, although there was no Division when the proposal was considered in Committee—it happened before my time in the House—Liberal Democrat Members opposed what became section 28 in this Chamber, both then and ever since.

Mr. Waterson

I am not sure that they were Liberal Democrat Members at the time, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I was not trying to suggest that they did not oppose the measure.

The Minister in charge of the 1987 Bill was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who made the following points. First, he said: It is not right for pupils to be taught, in any school, that homosexuality is the norm. That does not seem to have met with a great deal of controversy in the debate. He also said: I recognise that there may be a need for teachers to touch on the subject of homosexuality in the classroom. We, of course, agree with that.

My right hon. and learned Friend went on: In the Government's view, objective discussion of homosexuality in the classroom, in the way that I suggested a short time ago, would be perfectly proper, because it is not promotion of homosexuality.—[Official Report, 15 December 1987; Vol. 124, c. 1019.] I think that that is a very fair view.

A central issue in the debate on section 28 has been bullying. Any lingering concerns on that subject were addressed in the Lords amendment that the new clause would reinstate, but the Government's rhetoric on the matter has moved on. At one time we heard a lot about bullying, but we have heard much less recently. That is probably as well, for reasons that I shall explain.

Sadly, the Minister does not seem to have kept up with the Government's changes in rhetoric. In Committee, she said: I have a view about young people being able to sort out their own ideas in a supportive environment in which they are not subject or vulnerable to bullying because they are unsure about themselves. That is what the measure is about. She then went on to say: The repeal will remove discriminatory and confusing legislation from the statute book. I think that I am quoting the right hon. Lady fairly. She also said: People have suffered far too much fear and intimidation…—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 20 June 2000; c. 541–2.] That seemed to make the case that bullying was the main evil to be addressed. If that were so, there would be agreement on both sides of the House. However, we take the view that bullying must be tackled whether it is because of someone's hair colour, because they are fat or thin or because of their possible sexual orientation. Any teacher worth the name should be prepared to crack down effectively on bullying as a matter of urgency. There cannot be much disagreement about that. However, for those who take a different view, there is the Lords amendment, which we are seeking to reinstate.

All too often this argument proceeds by assertion rather than evidence. How much evidence is there of a major problem of homophobic bullying? Back in January, a spokesman at the Department for Education and Employment said we don't have any concrete evidence… The chief inspector of schools is on record as saying My own experience is that there is no evidence that section 28 has had a negative effect on teachers' ability to deal with bullying. No head teacher has raised it with me in all the school visits I have made. That seems a pretty telling point, because I cannot imagine that anyone has made more school visits than the chief inspector of schools.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

The hon. Gentleman may be aware, depending on how closely he studies the proceedings of the Select Committee on this matter, that when the chief inspector of schools came before the Select Committee and was questioned on that issue—and, indeed, in correspondence with my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw)—he specifically admitted that he had never raised the issue directly with head teachers.

Furthermore, a survey was carried out by Mr. Neil Duncan and published by Routledge, and another by the Institute of Education. They showed that 61 per cent. of schools surveyed were aware of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils in their schools, and that 51 per cent. of those schools had reported at least one instance of homophobic bullying in the past term. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that that is ample testimony, whatever the chief inspector's non sequiturs on the subject?

Mr. Waterson

I am aware of those surveys, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing them into the debate. I think that there are two issues here, and it is important to separate them. One is whether homophobic bullying takes place in schools. I should have thought that it is clear that it does. There are different conclusions from the evidence on how prevalent it is, and to what extent children at a certain age understand the meaning of some of the words they use. The second, more important question is whether, as a result of section 28, teachers feel constrained in from dealing with such bullying.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

A survey was carried out asking teachers whether they felt reticent because of what was on the statute book, even though it is not supposed to affect schools. Some 40 per cent. of teachers believed that the provision did inhibit them from talking properly to some children and students who felt that they were being bullied. Is not 40 per cent. a significant number of teachers who are feeling inhibited because section 28 is on the statute book?

Mr. Waterson

With respect, I fear that the hon. Lady was eliding two quite separate points. Whether teachers believe that the section affects them at all is yet another issue that we shall discuss. The other issue is whether they are prevented from talking about homosexuality in the classroom. I seriously wonder whether teachers feel constrained when it comes to dealing with bullying for that reason. Bullying is a separate problem, whatever the excuse or ostensible reason for it—there can be no proper reason for it—and we should crack down on it. I do not think that we can separate out homophobic bullying for a particular purpose.

4 pm

When we first began to debate some of the issues in the Bill, I wrote to secondary heads in my constituency to find out about their attitude. They held a meeting and wrote to me. Their comments partly relate to the hon. Lady's remarks. The letter stated: Jointly, we can say to you that bullying goes on in every school…whatever its causes, Eastbourne Schools, in common with other institutions, are not prepared to accept it… In our experience, there is no single, major root cause of bullying, however, we do work hard through social and moral education to eradicate prejudice. That was from Peter Barton, the head of the Causeway school, who is chair of the Eastbourne area education partnership. The letter was written on behalf of the heads of all the secondary schools in my constituency, but I do not think it is untypical.

Two points arise from that letter. The first is that those heads treat bullying as the problem—whatever its causes. The second is that they obviously do not feel at all constrained in trying to deal with bullying or to eradicate prejudice.

Not long ago, Mr. Arthur Cornell, a retired and distinguished headmaster in my constituency, wrote to The Times on the issue. He stated: Matters of bullying are about demanding dignity and respect for the individual as a human right. We can all agree about that. The letter continued: If I deal with a pupil who has bullied a boy because he is wearing a turban, there is no suggestion that in doing so I am promoting Sikhism… The claim that Section 28 prevents schools from dealing effectively with bullying arising from homophobia says more about a school's policy on bullying than it does about Section 28. That is a pretty good summary of the point I am trying to make.

Dr. Harris

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there was a law that schools should not promote the teaching of the acceptability of Sikhism as a pretended religion, that would create real difficulty for teachers? Indeed, it would be an open invitation for the bullying of Sikhs. A child might say, "Miss, I've been told my religion is unacceptable", and the teacher would reply, "Well, that's what it says in the law." The hon. Gentleman's analogy is offensive in any case, but he does not seem to realise that the legislation made bullying inevitable, or that there was difficulty in tackling bullying because of the words "acceptable" and "unacceptable".

Mr. Waterson

I am prepared to concede that the analogy—like most analogies—can be taken only so far.

I am sure that the Minister for Local Government and the Regions is strapping on her spurs and boots and preparing to climb on to her high horse over this issue—as she did in Committee—to lecture us and the rest of the world, if they are listening, about the purity and goodness of the Government's intentions. To dismantle that argument, one has to begin by considering how the Government's case for repealing section 28—a decision that I am sure they bitterly regret—has subtly changed.

We used to hear much about bullying. We are still hearing it from the Minister, but she is slightly out of step with the spin doctors—I hope that does not presage anything too awful for her. Recently, the Government have been pushing hard on three issues. The first is guidance. We have heard and will continue to hear much about guidance to schools and to teachers—suddenly, there is a lot of it around. Guidance is welcome as far as it goes. I have not followed the progress of the Learning and Skills Bill as closely as I have the proceedings on this Bill, but there have been some useful debates on the matter. The Government's proposals do not go as far as we would like. However, it is difficult to avoid feeling—as with yesterday's debates on cabinet secrecy in local government—that Ministers see guidance as a way of getting themselves out of a tight spot.

The second issue is the Government's greater reliance on the argument that the section does not apply to schools at all. I can understand how that argument runs legally. The only problem is that it applies—of course—to local education authorities. Many hon. Members agree that LEAs have some impact on what is taught or not taught in the schools in their area. It seems to be common ground on both sides of the argument that, whatever the law may or may not say, there is much confusion about whether the section applies to schools.

Mr. Gordon Marsden

I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's point about schools, but may I take him back to what he said earlier when he focused on the position in 1988, when the section was introduced? Since then, there has been a revolution in the way in which schools are administered, their budgets handled and decisions taken in them. In the light of that, is the hon. Gentleman seriously telling the House that the parents and the governors who have been empowered to make decisions in that period are no longer to be trusted to make sensible and reasonable decisions about the teaching of homosexuality?

Mr. Waterson

That is not what I am saying—certainly not. However, those on the other side of the argument really have to make up their minds. On one hand, it is argued that the proposed repeal will be a small piece of tidying up that needs to take place because it is a bad thing to have legislation lurking on the statute book that nobody uses or is likely to use. Certainly, it is clear that nobody has ever used section 28. If that is the case, however, why was there all the excitement and bally-hoo when it was first announced that the section was going to be tidied away? The alternative position is that adopted by Mr. Peter Tatchell and Stonewall, who argue that the section has an impact on teachers and on how they choose to arrange matters and to teach. The hon. Gentleman may wish to intervene later when I discuss this aspect in more detail, but, sooner or later, the argument for repeal must decide which colours it is putting its money on or which horse it is backing.

Sir Peter Lloyd (Fareham)

Those in favour of retaining section 28 must also make up their minds as to whether the changes that were brought in to strengthen the powers of school governing bodies and to give parents a central role on those bodies are working or not. The tenor of my hon. Friend's argument is that those changes are so weak that parents cannot ensure that inappropriate teaching does not happen in a school. If he thinks that, presumably he will suggest further legislation to make governing bodies really effective in the way that the previous Conservative Government thought they had done.

Mr. Waterson

My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, and it will be interesting to hear what Ministers have to say about it. I want to make progress, but these are detailed issues and they deserve detailed debate.

The confusion as to whether the section applies to schools also extends to such Olympian characters as the Prime Minister. He said: We believe…in getting rid of section 28. That is not because we believe it right to promote homosexuality but because we believe it is right for school teachers and others to be able to explain to children properly the facts of life.—[Official Report, 19 January 2000; Vol. 342, c. 840.] The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be under the impression that they were prevented from doing that by the legislation.

I wish to put on record my gratitude to Angela Mason of Stonewall for providing information on this issue. We have not necessarily agreed, but she has been very reasonable and reasoned in her representations to me. In a letter to me, she said that there has been enormous confusion about how the section applies in schools. Another information sheet produced by Stonewall refers to a string of occasions on which local authorities and educational institutions have been stopped from doing things that they would otherwise have done. One of the most well-known examples is that of Corby borough council which wanted to set up a Corby lesbian line.

The third issue about which we have heard something, although not a great deal, appears on the face of the Bill. It is suggested that section 28 is somehow objectionable under the European convention on human rights. It is a convention that the Government do not show us the legal opinions that they receive, but I have seen other opinions that suggest the opposite. Commission case law on the subject has consistently held that same-sex relationships fall outside the family-life provisions of article 8 of the convention. At the very least, the point is arguable. Indeed, there is an argument the other way: parents might feel able to bring a case under the convention if section 28 were repealed and certain things happened as a result.

I could speak endlessly on the legal aspect, but I suspect that I would lose the attention of the House—

Mr. Gordon Marsden

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Waterson

Let me finish the sentence. I shall not at all insist that Ministers break with precedent and show us the legal opinions that they have received, but the Minister for Local Government and the Regions could be a little more forthcoming in this debate than she was in Committee in talking us through the sudden appearance of the certificate in the Bill.

Mr. Marsden

The hon. Gentleman mentions the Human Rights Act 1998 and European Court judgments. It is obviously of great satisfaction to those of us on the Government Benches that the Opposition are taking such a keen interest in matters European. However, may I refer the hon. Gentleman to something domestic in this respect? As he will know, section 28 refers to the unacceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship, which presumably, by moving the new clause, he wants to entrench in the Bill. Is he therefore in conflict with the House of Lords judgment in September, in which Lord Nicholls and Lord Slynn of Hadley said in the majority decision on Fitzpatrick v. Sterling housing association that same-sex partners could be considered to be family members?

Mr. Waterson

I have a feeling that that case was to do with the Rent Acts. If it is the case that I am thinking of—it may not be—their lordships made it abundantly clear that their decision only concerned matters affecting the Rent Acts. No doubt we can look at that later.

The fourth point made—in a sense I have dealt with it in response to interventions—is that, as there have been no prosecutions, the provision does not matter. I have made the points on that, which are clear. Either the provision is a dead letter and nobody worries about it, in which case why all the fuss, or it has been having an effect and we therefore need to debate it.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this issue is what it reveals about the Government's metropolitan attitudes—their domination by a liberal elite who are out of touch with most people and even with large tracts of their own party's supporters. The provision simply does not pass the Kilfoyle test. An awful lot of decent Labour Back Benchers, many with religious convictions, will, if whipped, vote with a heavy heart.

By contrast, ours is a common-sense approach that seeks to prevent the abuse of taxpayers' money and to give parents the reassurance that they want and deserve. We have always felt that the provision was tacked on to the end of this substantial Bill because it seemed to the spin doctors like a good idea at the time, and would distract attention from the much more important provisions affecting local government. I hope and expect that the Lords will stand firm again on this issue, as on others, because on this issue, as on others, they are more in tune with the views of the British people than this Government.

Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Waterson

I will not give way.

Have no fear: Government spokesmen are already spinning that they will have to drop the abolition of section 28 if they do not want to lose the whole Bill. I hope that the same attitude applies to the fourth option that we discussed yesterday. It is time for the Government to see sense, abandon their obsession and move on.

4.15 pm
Miss Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Section 28 has always been highly controversial. It most certainly did not achieve all that its supporters claimed for it—nor will its repeal alter in any significant way the homophobic attitudes and prejudices in our society. The repeal of section 28 would not have stopped the London nail bomber killing innocent people in a pub. It would have made absolutely no difference. Section 28 applies only to local authorities, and cannot be invoked against individuals, companies or other publicly funded bodies such as the Arts Council, the BBC and the Health Development Agency.

It therefore follows that section 28 does not inhibit or prevent teachers and school governors from including in their school curriculum the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as an alternative form of family relationship, should they so desire. In fact, the guidelines make the matter quite clear when they state: This prohibition applies to the activities of local authorities themselves, as distinct from the activities of governing bodies and staff of schools.

Mr. Bradshaw

My hon. Friend referred to the London nail bomber and said that there is no connection. Does she not accept that he was motivated by homophobia and that a discriminatory piece of legislation such as section 28 is, by its very nature, homophobic?

Miss Smith

It is extremely sad that that evil person, the London nail bomber, carried out those acts. However, that has nothing to do with section 28, and saying that it does is a red herring. Would the London nail bomber have considered whether or not section 28 was in operation before he carried out those bombings? Of course not.

Section 28 does not apply to schools and should not affect the delivery of sex and relationship education in schools. It does not affect the activities of school governors or teachers; nor does it prevent objective classroom discussion of homosexuality. Schools can provide counselling, guidance, advice and support to all pupils. Any claim that section 28, in itself, stops homosexuality being discussed in schools is clearly unfounded. It is complete and utter nonsense to claim that section 28 inhibits schools or teachers from having in place appropriate measures to deal with cases of homophobic or other types of bullying.

For many years, I have had close contact with schools and teachers in my area. They have raised a host of issues with me, but on no occasion has a teacher, head teacher or school governor brought to my attention any problems arising from the implementation of section 28. It would appear that the chief inspector of schools has had a similar experience, as we heard earlier that the issue of section 28 has not been raised in any of the schools that he has visited. Indeed, it has not come up in Ofsted inspections as a matter affecting schools.

Mr. David Borrow (South Ribble)

I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend. Is she coming to the conclusion that, as section 28 has had no impact on what happens in schools, it is redundant and therefore there is no need for the House to seek to reintroduce it into the Bill?

Miss Smith

Section 28 is certainly redundant for schools, but I shall come on to the promotion of homosexuality in relation to local authorities, which is what this debate should be about.

I would be surprised—I am willing to accept interventions on the matter—if anyone could produce a teacher or head teacher who was prepared to say that he or she allowed bullying in school and did not take preventive measures to stop it immediately because of concern about falling foul of section 28. Teachers would not let that happen.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

I am not as distinguished a former head as the head to whom the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) referred. However, the matter is not simply about heads not giving way to bullying; it is about how we deal with the issue of inculcating into young people respect for those who are different. That is the challenge, and I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would address that issue, rather than the spurious argument that head teachers or teachers could condone bullying which, in fact, they do not.

Miss Smith

Teachers and head teachers are not affected by section 28; it does not apply to schools. New guidelines have been issued since section 28 was introduced. It is a complete red herring to suggest that it affects schools or the teaching in them. It is for governing bodies and teachers to decide what they wish to teach.

Mr. Patrick Hall

Has my hon. Friend seen the evidence based on research that the health and education research unit of the university of London published in November 1997, called "Playing it safe"? The research, carried out among secondary schools in England and Wales, arrived at clear conclusions that teachers and governors felt that section 28 applied to schools, even though it technically did not, and that it influenced their perception of how they should do their job in terms of meeting the needs of young people.

Miss Smith

I am not surprised that there is confusion in schools, because there seems to be rather a lot of confusion in the House. Many Members of Parliament seem not to understand that section 28 does not affect schools. People, especially hon. Members, would do well to research the matter thoroughly and to pass that information on to head teachers in their constituencies. If they are confused, I am not surprised that they are sending out confusing signals, which have been picked up by teachers and head teachers.

Another widely quoted piece of nonsense, which is offered as a reason why section 28 should be repealed, is that its existence somehow acts as a barrier to building a more tolerant and inclusive society. Those who foster that myth are, of course, completely unable to show that the introduction of section 28 caused an upsurge in homophobic activity or that its repeal will have the reverse effect.

Mr. Borrow

At the heart of section 28 lies a statement that promoting homosexuality as a pretended family relationship is unacceptable. Does not my hon. Friend feel in any way that that introduces into legislation the suggestion that homosexual relationships are unacceptable and that gay people who have long-term family relationships with someone of the same sex are in a pretended relationship, not one of merit? Does not she consider that that contributes to homophobia?

Miss Smith

I think that section 28 was badly drafted and that it could have been amended, but I do not believe that it is the role of local authorities to promote homosexuality or, indeed, any other form of sexuality. That is not their job; it is not what local ratepayers expect them to do.

Mr. Gordon Marsden

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way because she is dealing with the important relationship between section 28 and local authorities. If she will not accept that section 28 has inhibited what can be taught or done in schools, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, will not she at least accept that it is now having an inhibiting and negative effect on the health education and promotion that local authorities can provide? I refer to the case that has been brought against Glasgow city council, as a result of which all its funding for HIV and AIDS groups has been stopped. The basis of that case is that such activity contravenes section 28. Is not that a clear and unambiguous example of how section 28 inhibits the health education activities of local authorities?

Miss Smith

Section 28 makes it clear that health promotion should not be stopped and that HIV and other information can be provided by local authorities.

I shall make progress. The fact that this matter is once again being debated in Parliament and that it has received much coverage has given a platform to every homophobic group and presented them with an opportunity to whip up anti-homosexual feelings among the public. We have seen that recently in newspapers and on television.

On the subject of inclusiveness and tolerance, may I say that the intolerant way in which the party Whips are being used for this debate on a topic that is essentially a matter of conscience leads me to believe that the major parties in this place have much to learn about tolerance?

The core of the issue is section 28(1), which states: A local authority shall not— (a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. Section 28 is part of the civil law, not the criminal law. It therefore regulates what a local authority may do but does not create any criminal offences. In theory, any ratepayer could apply for a judicial review of a local authority action or decision that might appear to be in breach of section 28. If that was successful, the court could, for example, make an injunction restraining the authority from continuing with its action. No damages or fines could be awarded.

Mr. Borrow

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Miss Smith

No. I must make progress. I have taken several interventions.

Let us be honest. When we strip aside all the hot air and red herrings that have littered the debate, we are left with this simple question: should local authorities be allowed to spend taxpayers' money on the promotion of homosexuality? My answer to that question is a clear and unequivocal no, not on the promotion of homosexuality or any other form of sexual relationship.

Given that the only real effect of repealing section 28 would be to remove the prohibitions that prevent local authorities from spending their taxpayers' money in that way, one can assume only that those in favour of the repeal are in favour of local authorities having the ability to promote homosexuality directly.

Dr. Harris

Will the hon. Lady clarify—

Miss Smith

I am sorry; I am trying to make progress.

I find it odd that so many supporters of repealing the section are silent on that point. Section 28 is badly drafted, and I understand why many would find the wording objectionable. That could well be improved by amendment, but no such amendments have been tabled. However, it provides the public with an important safeguard against the irresponsible actions of some local authorities, and until a credible alternative is found, it should remain.

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden)

I am grateful to be called to speak after the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith), whose speech contained a huge amount of common sense. I find myself agreeing with most of what she said. She spoke in practical terms, and it is important that we bring our practical experience to the debate.

I know that others want to speak, so I shall make a brief contribution from the perspective of a mother of young children who have yet formally to receive their sex education in school. I am deeply concerned about the way in which that is taught. I know that I am not alone in that, because in the playground parents come up to me and tell me of their fears about the implications of repealing section 28.

Young people are increasingly being encouraged by various media to experiment with sex. The fact that this country has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease in Europe is nothing to be proud of. As parliamentarians, we must work together to try to do something about that.

I read from cover to cover a copy of a teaching guide—yes, it is called a teaching guide—produced by Avon NHS health promotion trust. I was dismayed to find that the health authority has produced a written guide, teachers' notes and a video aimed at years 9, 10 and 11. Things have changed since my day, so for the benefit of the House, I should explain that that means 13, 14 and 15-year-olds.

On the video, speaking to the camera, a young boy says: Try experimenting with other boys and girls and see who you feel most comfortable with.

Mr. Patrick Hall

Will the hon. Lady give way?

4.30 pm
Mrs. Spelman

There have been many interventions in this debate. We all have brief contributions to make, and I should like to see mine through. The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale took many interventions, making it difficult to follow her points, so I should like to persist.

Avon health authority spent £9,000 of public money on that material, basically aimed at encouraging people to break the law on the age of consent. With section 28 in place, that material, which was produced by the health authority for schools—why else would there be accompanying teacher's notes?—should not be used in any way. Certainly taxpayer's money should not be used to encourage children to break the law on the age of consent for sexual intercourse.

Mr. Gordon Marsden

The hon. Lady referred earlier to teenage pregnancies, which I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree is an important issue, which should be addressed. Does she therefore feel that to teach girls of 14 or 15 about sexual activity with a view to discouraging teenage pregnancies would be a bad thing, in the same way as she seems to be saying that for boys of that age to be taught about sexual activity would be a bad thing?

Mrs. Spelman

The hon. Gentleman is trying to distract me from the words: Try experimenting— experimenting, if you please— with other boys and girls and see who you feel most comfortable with.

Mr. Hall

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Spelman

No, I have made my point. I do not want my children to be encouraged to experiment with children of their own sex or the opposite sex at the tender age of 13, 14 and 15. I feel incredibly strongly on that point. If that is the only point that I make in the House tonight, I want to make it most forcefully.

The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale said that section 28 was poorly drafted, and I tend to agree. As parliamentarians, we could do something to make it clearer. None the less, it acts as a deterrent on my local authority, preventing it from purchasing documents, such as the one to which I have referred, to distribute within the schools for which it has responsibility, and I want to see that deterrent retained.

Closer to home for me is the booklet produced jointly by Birmingham city council and Birmingham health authority, the target group for which is local youth groups, which, in a couple of years, children of mine will be eligible to attend. That booklet also portrays under-age children experimenting with sex. Both from my perspective as a parent and with my interest in health matters, I find its cavalier attitude towards the attendant health risks irresponsible.

Referring to sexually transmitted diseases, the booklet says on page 86: They are just part of life, as common as colds and flu. Yet on page 88, the same booklet says: Sexually transmitted infections don't just go away, they are not like colds. Apart from the obvious point—

Mr. Hall

The hon. Lady has clearly read the document to which she has just referred, and I am pleased that she has. She quoted from a video called "Beyond a Phase" made by Avon health authority. Has she seen that video?

Mrs. Spelman

Yes, I have watched that video, and I replayed it twice to make sure that I had the words of the young lad. Do I need to repeat them? For such words to be presented to children is most shocking. He said: Try experimenting with other boys and girls and see who you feel most comfortable with. Any parents of my acquaintance who hear those words want a law in place that would prevent their children from being exposed to such material.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

The hon. Lady has told the House that she has watched the video; will she confirm that it included several interviews with young people who expressed their abhorrence of gay activity and put the other side of the case?

Mrs. Spelman

The video contains a wide range of information, but it also includes something that should not be presented to young children. I would not wish my children to watch that.

The Birmingham health authority document was also produced with taxpayers' money. Apart from the blatant inconsistency of claiming on one page that sexually transmitted diseases resemble colds and stating on the next page that they do not, the document flies in the face of information that a health authority is in a position to promote differently. Britain has the biggest increase in sexually transmitted disease among teenagers; since 1988, the figure for teenage women has doubled. Who could possibly describe a disease such as chlamydia as anything like a cold? It can lead to pelvic inflammation, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. It is grossly irresponsible of a health authority, which has joint local authority funding, to issue a document that encourages young people to experiment with sex and describes sexually transmitted diseases as resembling a common cold.

In a Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions press notice of 26 November last year, the Government state that they want to create local government that listens to what people really want—how they want to be governed and how they want their services to be delivered. Parents do not want section 28 to be repealed. If it is repealed, how can we protect our children from materials such as "Beyond a Phase"? How can a taxpayer prevent public money from being spent on a document that contains misleading information and on documents—such as that produced by Birmingham health authority—that compare sexually transmitted diseases to a cold?

As the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale said, section 28 is almost the only route whereby a taxpayer can call for a judicial review of whether a health authority should be allowed to spend taxpayers' money on the documents that I have described. For me, that is an overwhelming argument for retaining the section.

Mr. Don Foster

I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) because I hope that my contribution will contrast starkly with hers. I disagreed with almost everything she said. I also disagreed with almost everything that the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith) said, although I agreed with two points that she made. First, the hon. Lady was right to say that there is an urgent need in society for everyone to be more tolerant. I hope that my contribution is founded on the principle of the need for greater tolerance. I also agree with the hon. Lady that section 28 is badly drafted. However, we reached different conclusions about the action that we should take.

New clause 2 has barely been mentioned. I hope that we will be able to vote on amendments Nos. 6 and 7, which are at the heart of the matter that we are debating. I want to deal with those amendments in my speech. The House is familiar with what section 28 purports to do, but it is worth reminding hon. Members of that. It purports to prevent local authorities from "promoting" homosexuality. It forbids councils to publish material that has the intention of promoting homosexuality and to promote teaching in their schools of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. In Committee, we agreed that we wanted to see the back of section 28. Our debate today is about whether we want to change the decision that we made in Committee.

We made a great deal of progress in our deliberations on the Bill yesterday. We made several changes on matters such as equality of entitlement to pensions by different categories of councillors, indemnity for councillors and subjecting executives to greater public and media scrutiny. I am delighted that those changes were agreed. However, I hope that no changes will be made today to what was agreed in Committee. I hope that we shall continue to support the repeal of section 28.

Leaving aside Liberal Democrats' abhorrence of discrimination that is based on sexual orientation, there are three key reasons why I shall continue to oppose attempts to retain section 28. First, we believe that the section is a redundant piece of legislation as it affects schools. Secondly, it is meaningless in both legal and common-sense terms. Thirdly, it has led to much confusion among teachers about whether they can deal with issues involving homosexuality in schools, and especially homophobic bullying.

The repeal of section 28 alone should not be the issue. We should be concerned also with what will replace it. I was disappointed when the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) said that he had not been studying carefully the passage of and deliberation on the Learning and Skills Bill. That Bill reflects clearly the Government's intention, with Liberal Democrat support, to replace the current arrangements in respect of section 28.

I referred to three reasons. The first is the redundancy of section 28. I am confused when those on the Opposition Front Bench are seeking to retain the section to give powers to local education authorities on the very day when we read in newspapers that it is the Conservative plan to abolish LEAs. I find confusion in Conservative thinking.

Mr. Waterson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foster

I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman sort it out for me.

Mr. Waterson

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of dragging us both out of order. It is not our policy to abolish local education authorities, but I fear that it is the Government's policy.

Mr. Foster

If that is so, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be rapidly firing off a letter to, for example, Mr. John Clare, the education editor, who believes that that is what the leader of the Conservative party announced only yesterday. I could cite others.

Leaving aside Conservative plans for the future of LEAs, I hope that at least the Opposition will agree that it was a Conservative Government who made head teachers and governing bodies, which include parents, responsible in law for all relations relating to sex education within their schools in the Education Act 1996. Heads, governors and parents have total control of sex education and the teaching material that is used in their schools. They are free to reject any material that is sent to them by the LEA, campaign groups, health authorities or anyone else. In addition, parents have a right to withdraw their children from sex education. If we trust parents, head teachers and governors to be responsible for running our schools, managing quite significant budgets and ensuring that schools meet requirements and statutory duties, surely we can trust those people to be responsible for sex education.

Local education authorities now have no direct responsibility for sex education in our schools, whether that relates to issues of homosexuality or otherwise. For that reason, and that alone, we should be repealing section 28. It is entirely redundant legislation.

Secondly, in legal and common-sense terms, the section is nonsensical for the following simple reason. Homosexuality cannot be promoted. It is not possible to do so. We might as well introduce a Bill that forbids the promotion of left-handedness. As they grow up, some young people will start to realise that they are attracted to those of the same sex. Most of them do not. However, homosexuality is not taken up like train spotting or even joining the Conservative party. Young people cannot be persuaded to become gay, but the crucial thing that should matter to every hon. Member is that those young people need care. They need guidance. They do not need their lives to be made more difficult by decisions in the House.

4.45 pm

The third reason is that section 28 has undoubtedly, despite what some hon. Members have said, led to great confusion among teachers about whether they can or cannot deal with issues of homosexuality in school.

Mrs. Spelman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foster

Of course I will.

Mrs. Spelman

I appreciate that on a kind of 15-all basis.

The hon. Gentleman has said that homosexuality cannot be promoted. However, on the encouragement of young people to experiment with the same sex, does he not accept that particularly younger boys in their teenage years often go through a period of confusion and that encouraging them to experiment just makes that worse?

Mr. Foster

The hon. Lady has clearly got hung up on the Avon health authority video. Let me say, although I was going to come to it a bit later, that I happen to agree with her. I do not think that it was a particularly helpful video, but I draw her attention to the fact that, under the legislation that her Government introduced, it would be for the governing body of the school to decide whether to use it. It is not a matter that we can determine here, but, in fairness to her, I think that she was right to draw our attention to that video and to some of the remarks within it, which I genuinely believe were not helpful to the case that I and other right hon. and hon. Members seek to make.

The key point is that section 28 causes confusion in the minds of teachers as to how they are to respond to issues of homosexuality and, in particular, to the issue of homophobic bullying. Indeed, it has put confusion in the minds of some council officers as to how they can or cannot provide services for gay and lesbian council tax payers and others.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne suggested that there is no evidence that section 28 has caused the confusion that I have described. Such evidence has already been cited by the hon. Members for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) and for Bedford (Mr. Hall). Other examples can be cited. I wish to use just one: the evidence provided by my noble Friend Lord Tope. He has gathered a considerable body of evidence, which is, incidentally, informing some work by the Institute of Education at London university. His evidence from school pupils, their parents and teachers testifies to harrowing personal experiences of homophobic bullying, ranging from verbal abuse and the ruining of books and clothing to physical attacks. Perhaps the most tragic of all the episodes that he came across was that of Darren Steele, a 15-year-old comprehensive schoolboy in Northamptonshire, who committed suicide following years of such abuse. Some of the young people who wrote directly to Lord Tope spoke of their own attempts to take their own lives.

In many cases—not all, but in many—the accounts that Lord Tope received pointed to the apparent inability of teachers and adults who knew about the bullying to interfere. A constant theme in those accounts was, "Teachers say they cannot do anything because of section 28." We all know that teachers have got it wrong. We absolutely accept that the correct interpretation of section 28 should not have led to that situation, but the reality is that it has. Far better then that we remove that legislation and replace it with an acceptable alternative. I fear that some of the evidence that has been given to Lord Tope suggests that some of the teachers themselves have perhaps been homophobic. I am sure that no hon. Member would condone that.

As I have said, I accept that there have been some examples that have not been helpful—I have referred to the Avon video—but what matters above all is not the symbolism of removing section 28, but what it is replaced with, which is why it is so important that all hon. Members study carefully what has been done and said during consideration of the Learning and Skills Bill.

As the House will know, that Bill had its Third Reading on 27 June. The guidance under that legislation has three main elements that are relevant to this debate. The first is learning the value of family life, marriage and stable and loving relationships for the nurture of children. The second is learning to make choices based on an understanding of difference and with an absence of prejudice. The third is learning the reasons for delaying sexual activity, the benefits to be gained from such delay, avoidance of unplanned pregnancy. I hope that all hon. Members entirely agree with those words. We should be debating those elements and the regulations and guidance that will flow from that.

I support the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris), who on 27 June sought assurances that there would be time for a parliamentary debate on the detail of the guidance. The Minister for Local Government and the Regions is not responsible for that legislation, but I hope that she will be willing to seek an assurance from her right hon. and hon. Friends that there will be such a debate, and I hope that the issue will be taken forward with cross-party support.

Reference has already been made to the difficulties that section 28 has created, such as the situation in Glasgow. It is relevant to repeat the facts of that case. Mrs. Sheena Strain, a Glasgow nurse, with the support of the Christian Institute, has brought a case against Glasgow city council for funding organisations that have given valuable support to gay and lesbians on health issues, to carers of people with HIV and AIDS and to young people in distress over their sexuality.

The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale rightly reminded us that section 28(2) states that that should not happen. It shows the confusion created by section 28 that such a case can be brought, and is another reason why we should repeal section 28 and replace it with appropriate alternatives.

My party's constitution says that we exist to build a society in which no-one shall he enslaved by conformity. My party rejects all prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and opposes all forms of entrenched inequality. We went into the last general election with a manifesto that made it clear that we wanted section 28 to be repealed. I hope that I have given a clear outline of the reasons why we want its repeal. I hope that we will have an opportunity to vote specifically on that issue. I and many of my colleagues will be in the Division Lobby to continue our support for the repeal of section 28.

Ann Keen (Brentford and Isleworth)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in a debate on the repeal of section 28, which I, and many hon. Members, believe does nothing to foster tolerance in our society. We are half way through a new year of a new century, but yet again we are having to beg for tolerance. That is unacceptable.

Virtually all Members present on the Opposition and the Government Benches want a tolerant and fair society. I know that my colleagues support organisations that want the repeal of section 28. We take their advice and we use their knowledge. Organisations such as Barnardos, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and those that represent my own nursing profession are concerned with the physical and mental health of our young people. Surely we all remember our teenage years—it is not that long ago—and those difficult times when we needed to talk about how we felt about difficult subjects.

Are we saying that homosexuality does not exist? Are we saying that homosexuals are not equal to other people? If we are, we should say that that is how we feel. If hon. Members feel that way, they should have the courage to say so, and not hide behind section 28 by saying that it is about protecting young people. Section 28 does nothing to protect young people. The organisations that I have mentioned would not say that section 28 did not protect young people if it did. I think that we all honour those organisations.

All our young people are entitled to have their lives valued equally. Surely all our young people in families should be allowed openly to discuss within their family how they feel. Of course they should do that privately. However, those families will require guidance and support. For some families, such discussions are an extremely difficult and stressful time. In fact, some parents do not respond positively to young people who express their sexuality. Very sadly, some families ask their young people to leave home. Many young homeless people on the streets of this city and others across the United Kingdom are there because they do not have their family's support.

Some of those young people are also afraid to go to their teachers. I am not talking about all teachers, and would not for a moment suggest that all teachers are not capable of using sensitivity and discussing privately the feelings of young people. We are, however, discussing a matter of perception.

I genuinely believe that not one hon. Member who has spoken in this debate wants to foster an intolerant or prejudiced society. However, such a society already exists. I believe that, when I spoke on this issue previously, I offended some hon. Members by saying that intolerance gives rise to actions such as David Copeland's bombing. As I also said on that occasion, however, I do not believe that any hon. Member would attempt to justify or in any way to support such an act. Nevertheless, the longer ignorance and intolerance continue, the more people will feel that they are acceptable.

Hon. Members do not in any way support racism or homophobia, because those traits are wrong and should not be supported. It is as simple as that. It is also wrong for anyone to feel intimidated. Earlier, when my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith) was speaking, some of my hon. Friends tried to intervene, and other hon. Members told her not to be intimidated. I well understood why my hon. Friend wanted to continue her speech. However, was that really intimidation? What about intimidation at school, at work, or in one's own family? Surely that intimidation cannot be acceptable.

I have received very many letters about the issue, including some printed reply slips from a certain newspaper, which said, "Please do not do anything to repeal this provision." Some articles on the issue are extremely ignorant and have frightened many people. They certainly do not demonstrate the behaviour of a responsible newspaper.

Nevertheless, one man has written to me to say that, in the mid-1970s, The climate was such that homosexuality was a taboo subject and so there was no support system for me to turn to when I was raped at 13 by a "heterosexual" man of 30. When I confided in another pupil, I was then repeatedly seriously assaulted by gangs of older pupils and no help, guidance or support was offered by the staff. I also felt unable to involve my family, due to the general hostility and ignorance which prevailed in society at that time.

Miss Geraldine Smith

I think that every hon. Member would agree that that is a tragic story. However, what does it have to do with the repeal of section 28? Section 28 does not affect schools; it deals only with the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities. It is quite a specific provision. My hon. Friend is introducing red herrings into a debate in which there have already been too many.

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Ann Keen

I do not believe that my hon. Friend's comments stand up. The issue is not a red herring if people feel that they cannot ask for advice, or when those who have responsibility for young people who have been bullied feel that they cannot deal with the problem. It is a real issue if people feel intimidated.

We have talked about sex education and teenage pregnancies and I know personally how much we need education in that area. Such education must be offered openly and with parental consent, and applied with good common sense and guidance. That is what we should provide for our young people today. We need that because, sadly, our society is not perfect. It does breed bigots and people who deliberately promote prejudice. Open discussions have changed minds on this issue. However, I cannot accept that religious groups, who claim to protect people, should also promote prejudice.

It is time that we listened to the organisations that are skilled in dealing with young people and those responsible health professionals who argue that, as well as sex education, we should provide education about drug addiction. Do we really think that such education would lead people to become drug addicts? We should tell young people about the issue, because it might affect their families, themselves, their friends or people with whom they will work, study or socialise in future. That applies in the House itself. All hon. Members are different, and we show amazing tolerance to each other. That is good, and can show the House at its best. I hope that today's debate sees the end of intolerance and that we can give families, parents and our young people at schools the opportunity to talk openly without prejudice and to protect each other while still being proud of their differences.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith). During my first Parliament, I ended up speaking out against almost my entire party on a particular issue, and it is a lonely and difficult business. I do not think that some of her hon. Friends did themselves or the House any favours by intervening on her repeatedly, sometimes before she had finished a sentence. If ever I saw intolerance, it was then.

The House is probably united in the belief that what should be taught in schools should be a matter for the governors. All hon. Members who have touched on the issue have agreed on that, and I endorse that point. I am afraid that that is the only point of consensus that I shall make this afternoon, but I shall add a few brief remarks to the excellent contributions we have already heard from hon. Members on my side of the argument.

Every so often, somebody introduces a red herring and says that the section does not make any difference. But the example given by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) is not an isolated one. There are others from various sources. Grampian health authority warned that teachers should not use resources which advocate monogamy or marriage as a solution to HIV. A north London health authority produced a curriculum of material, including gay material, to be used in primary schools.

The fact that nearly all the worst examples come from health authorities not covered by section 28 suggests to me that the section is making a difference. Why else should health authorities produce material of this sort, while education authorities are not? As we have been rightly reminded again and again—first by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), and then by the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale—section 28 applies only to education authorities.

Dr. Peter Brand (Isle of Wight)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brazier

By all means—although I do not intend to make a habit of it, as others wish to speak.

Dr. Brand

Might not the reason for health authorities' eagerness to provide information be the fact that health professionals are well aware of the misery that intolerance of homosexuality creates?

Mr. Brazier

The job of health authorities clearly relates to the health of the nation. Producing a video encouraging 13 and 14-year-olds to experiment with sex, heterosexual and homosexual, does not make an obvious contribution to the health of the nation. But the only point that I am trying to make is this: no one can seriously argue that section 28 is a dead letter or an irrelevance when organisations not covered by it are producing such material, while, on the whole, organisations covered by it—education authorities—are not. It is clearly making a difference.

The Minister for Local Government and the Regions (Ms Hilary Armstrong)

The hon. Gentleman may not know that an amendment tabled to the Learning and Skills Bill covers his point. It will ensure that health authority guidance is subject to exactly the same conditions as guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. On that basis, the hon. Gentleman need have no further worries about repealing section 28.

Mr. Brazier

I know that you will restrain me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I go far down the road of debate on another Bill, but as the Minister has tempted me, let me make one point in response. As she will know, I was present for a substantial chunk of the debate on that Bill, during which the efforts of a number of Opposition Members to include a specific commendation of marriage were voted down. Given the overwhelming evidence that monogamy, abstinence and marriage are the best foundations for the rearing of children—that was the context of the debate, but the same applies in a number of other contexts—I am not entirely convinced by what she has said. [Interruption.] Labour Members may laugh, but as they know very well, the rules of order do not allow us to proceed much further with a debate on another Bill. I merely say that many people would have liked their children to be told, during debates on sex education, that marriage should have a special place when it comes to sex and the rearing of children.

My second point is that a practical issue is involved—an issue that some speakers have been unwilling to face. I refer to the balance between the framework in which teaching is given, and the need for tolerance. One issue has featured a great deal in the media over the past fortnight. It has been dealt with rather flippantly, but I am the first to say that it is a serious issue. Obesity is a significant cause of bullying in schools. The bullying of fat children is probably the most common form of bullying in schools. It is repulsive, as is every other form of bullying. Some excessively thin or anorexic children are also bullied and are subject to unpleasant jibes and names such as "beanpole".

Would any hon. Member seriously suggest, however, that overweight children should not be warned of the medical dangers of being overweight? If their condition results from a medical condition, should not they be pointed towards doctors? [Interruption.] I heard some lengthy speeches from hon. Members opposed to the new clause and did not intervene, and I hope that they in turn will hear me out.

Is it seriously suggested that pupils should not be warned of the dangers of obesity? However, given the attitude developing among some health professionals, I wonder whether teachers would not be actively discouraged from telling pupils about the considerable medical dangers posed by homosexual practices.

Labour Members who oppose the new clause talk about intolerance. Would they tolerate teachers sharing with pupils information about the medical dangers involved in homosexuality?

Dr. Harris

Many questions arise from what the hon. Gentleman has just said, but will he clarify what he considers the serious medical dangers of lesbianism to be?

Mr. Brazier

I am not an expert on the medical dangers of lesbianism, but the medical dangers of sex between men are a subject on which the hon. Gentleman has heard me speak before. As a doctor, he must know many of them. For instance, more than half the cases of HIV in this country involve the relatively small proportion of people who are practising homosexuals. The dangers also include a range of bowel disorders, and blood disorders. Some of the damage caused by male homosexual practices can be caused by protected sex as well as by unprotected sex. However, I do not want to go further down that road.

As I said earlier, in a physical context a contrast must be drawn between tolerance and teaching children the full facts. However, a wider moral argument underlies the debate. It is worth sharing with the House some of the comments made by major religious leaders in this country. The Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, has stated: I can never forget as a Jew that homosexuals were sent to Auschwitz just as Jews were. Therefore if our society has become more tolerant that is a good thing. However, the current proposal is based on a fundamental confusion between tolerance and moral judgment. There is a real danger that the abolition of section 28 will lead to the promotion of a homosexual lifestyle as morally equivalent to marriage. The general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain stated: Our objection is that a small and unrepresentative pressure group appears to have seized control of the government and is attempting to change the law in order to thrust on our children—and on the children of the rest of society—lifestyles and values which most people reject. The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, the Rev. James Jones, said that section 28 seeks to prevent the promotion of a gay lifestyle as a moral equivalent to heterosexual marriage. It recognises that education is a formative experience and has a unique role in the development of not just individual pupils but of society as a whole.

Ann Keen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brazier

I am not giving way again.

Ann Keen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Mr. Brazier

I did not seek to intervene on the hon. Lady when she was speaking. I have given way four times already, and I am drawing my remarks to a close.

Ann Keen

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not going to give way.

5.15 pm
Mr. Brazier

The quote from the bishop continues: Governments, both Conservative and New Labour, put the family at the heart of a stable society. Section 28 is the logical out-working of that policy in the education system. I will not quote Cardinal Winning, as it is widely known that I am a Catholic and people would say that obviously I would agree with him. However, there we have the testimony of three very important religious leaders.

It seems to me, to quote the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), who has left the Chamber, that to call the video that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden described at some length merely unhelpful is the understatement of the year. It is quite wrong that such material should be produced and it is quite right that it is illegal for education authorities to produce it. I support the retention of section 28.

Mr. Borrow

I have two brief points to make before my main argument. I was somewhat bemused by the comments of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and his concern for the health of gay men, in view of the situation in Glasgow, where section 28 has resulted in health work with gay men not being undertaken. I wish that some of the opponents of the repeal of section 28 would decide whether they are concerned about the health of gay men or whether they are as hostile to gay men as many of their attitudes and comments would indicate.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman gave a list of religious leaders. I wish to pay tribute to Alan Chesters, the Bishop of Blackburn. He has done tremendous work in the other place in working with the Government to introduce guidelines on this issue. To indicate that the Anglican bishops in the other place unanimously wish to retain section 28 is quite untrue. Many Anglican bishops support the Government on this issue and I am pleased at the line being taken by my own bishop.

When clause 28 was being debated in the late 1980s, I was a newly elected member of Preston borough council. I remember a debate on the clause to which I contributed. A number of points were made as we looked forward to what would happen when the clause was implemented. First, the measure mentioned the promotion of sexuality several times. The presumption was that it was possible to turn someone who was heterosexual into someone who was attracted to, and wanted relationships with, someone of the same sex. I have yet to meet anybody who knew of such a case or had come across an example.

There seems to be a myth about the promotion of homosexuality. One of the dividing lines on the issue is between those who believe that section 28 will create more gay men and women through the promotion of homosexuality and those who look at the reality and accept that people's sexuality is something that they discover as they grow up and over which they have no control. They do have control over how they develop relationships, having discovered their sexuality, but that is a different issue.

The second part of the measure that I remember debating all those years ago said that a local authority shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

This afternoon, we have heard that section 28 no longer applies to schools. However, I remember comments made by a retired school teacher when it did apply to schools. She had spent all her working life teaching in high schools. She bitterly opposed the introduction of section 28 because she felt that it would inhibit teachers when they counselled and worked with pupils. When pupils express doubt about their sexuality to a teacher, the last thing they need is legislation that prevents a teacher from saying that to be gay is okay, and that people who grow up and find that they are gay and enter a same-sex relationship are perfectly good and decent. Over the years, teachers have felt inhibited about making such comments.

Moreover, there have been problems because of bullying. The section makes it difficult to tackle bullying. It is not just a matter of telling people to stop bullying; they need to be told why it is wrong to bully and that the person who is being bullied is just as good as they are. When legislation states that gay relationships are unacceptable, how can a teacher stop a class of children bullying one of their number? The teacher cannot tell them that it is perfectly all right for people to be gay. That was one of the key issues when the section was introduced.

I accept that the point no longer applies to the education system, because sex education and the problem of bullying are no longer covered by section 28. Proposals in the Learning and Skills Bill remove such matters from measures controlling local government. I am thus puzzled as to why the Opposition want to reintroduce such a provision on education when it has no place in education.

Part of section 28 will remain if the Tories get their way. It relates to whether a local authority can undertake measures that promote homosexuality. There have been no legal judgments on cases arising from section 28. I suspect that one of the reasons why no such case has completed its passage through the courts is the difficulty of deciding whether it is possible to promote homosexuality at all. Although there are still some people who believe that is possible, most rational people do not.

Local authorities—including Corby, Glasgow and Cardiff—are using section 28 to justify not giving support and funding to organisations in their area that assist gay and lesbian people, or are used by them. The point is simple. When I was a local authority leader, I approved grants to voluntary organisations that helped groups with a particular religious, local or other interest. Section 28 is being used to deny grants and support to community-based organisations serving the needs of gays and lesbians.

There are gay men and women in every constituency. Surely their local authorities should have the power—unfettered by section 28—to give services, either directly or through other organisations, to members of the gay community in their constituencies. However, under section 28 and given the ambiguity of the word "promotion", they are prevented from doing that.

Over the past 12 years, most local authorities have ignored section 28 when it has come to supporting gay and lesbian groups in their areas. However, because of the work of the Christian Institute and other organisations, local authorities are backing away from giving services and support to gay and lesbian people. That goes against everything that the House should stand for. It promotes division, homophobia and exclusion. If there is one thing that we in this place should be about it is promoting tolerance, equality and inclusion. I urge hon. Members to oppose the new clause and the amendments.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

This has been a surprisingly good debate, given the passions that the subject often arouses. I want to join virtually every Conservative Member who has spoken in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith) for a very brave and convincing speech, which I for one admired.

Although I did not agree with the conclusions of the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen), I was grateful for what she said about everyone in the Chamber—I count myself among them—being united in the desire to build a fair and tolerant society in which minority rights are respected and protected unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary. However, we must recognise that it is our duty to reflect the views held by people outside the House. In that regard, it is right to recognise something that has not yet been articulated in the debate: that many people whom we represent are not of the view that homosexuality is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Even though they hold that view, they abhor discrimination against homosexuals.

That point was developed helpfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) when he quoted religious leaders. When he quoted a Muslim leader, I was alarmed to hear a rather derogatory remark from someone on the Liberal Benches about the tolerance of that religion. That is worrying. We should keep clear and open minds about the views of all the religions in this country. We should listen to the divided Anglican Church—yes, it is divided—and to the other Churches that have a coherent and clear view.

The only jarring note struck in the debate was the earlier suggestion that those Conservative and Labour Members who support the retention of section 28 are in some sense homophobic or party to the incitement of acts of terrorism against the homosexual community. I fundamentally and completely reject that view.

As the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale made clear, this is, in one sense, a narrow debate. It is about the use of taxpayers' money to promote a particular ideology or point of view. It is not about the rights or wrongs of homosexuality, but about what the state does with its resources.

Last week, I received in my postbag a letter from a doctor in my constituency who has written to the Prime Minister to express her opposition to the scrapping of section 28, and I shall be interested to see the reply that the Prime Minister sends. The letter certainly reflects the overwhelming support in my constituency for the retention of section 28. At no stage in the eight years that I have been a Member of Parliament has a head teacher expressed concern about its operation in relation to his or her school's anti-bullying policy. The Government are slaying a dragon of their own imagination to appeal to a small cosmopolitan elite; the problem does not exist. I totally reject the arguments that have been made about bullying.

The doctor in my constituency has worked with sex offenders in prisons and helped to initiate a group in Worcester to support the child victims of sexual abuse. She says: I do have a little knowledge of the subject. She describes herself as a lifelong supporter of the Labour party…a parent, a doctor and a Christian. The letter helpfully refers to the point that we are debating.

It is unfortunate that the literature that causes such concern and that has been quoted by Conservative Members often goes into unnecessarily graphic detail. The letter says: I have seen a variety of leaflets and promotional literature originating from gay rights groups, some of which are in receipt of grants from their local authorities, which have already been issued to schools despite the existence of Section 28 as it stands at present. This material not only encourages children very frankly to experiment with a homosexual lifestyle to "determine their sexual orientation" at a time when they are very vulnerable and impressionable. That is the important point. Children are, at a certain stage in the development of their sexuality, vulnerable and impressionable.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire)


Mr. Borrow


5.30 pm
Mr. Luff

I shall give way first to my hon. Friend and then to the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow).

Mr. Heald

Many of the representations that I have received in favour of retaining section 28 have been from mothers with sons, who feel worried about the change. Does my hon. Friend agree with my impression that the mothers of Britain are saying no to the proposed change?

Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge)


Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Ladies should not get so excited.

Mr. Luff

I hear the cries of "rubbish", which you rightly rebuked, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from two people on the Government Benches whom I know to be mothers. All I can say is that they are in a minority of mothers and my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) is right.

Before I give way to the hon. Member for South Ribble, I shall develop the point on which I think he wanted to intervene. I was quoting the doctor who said that young people can be vulnerable and impressionable. I think that the hon. Gentleman said that it is irrational to say that one can promote homosexuality. I disagree with him; it is possible to promote anything, including homosexuality.

Mr. Borrow

I know that the hon. Gentleman is not quoting his own words, but what does he understand by the term "homosexual lifestyle" in the letter that he has read out?

Mr. Luff

I do not want to be drawn into detail—this debate has been mercifully free of details—but I would have thought that the phrase is self-explanatory. I do not understand how I can expand the point. It is a life style lived by homosexuals, with the practices of homosexuals. It seems self-explanatory. I am at a loss to understand what further explanation I can give. The subject matter is well known on both sides of the House.

Dr. Harris

Is the hon. Gentleman at all troubled by the fact that no respected group of medical opinion accepts the view that a sexuality can be promoted, just as femaleness cannot be promoted? Is he at all put off his stride by the fact that organisations such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the National Children's Bureau and the Royal College of Nursing are all campaigning for the abolition of section 28 because of the damage that it does to the welfare of children?

Mr. Luff

The representative bodies may take that view, but I know many medics in my constituency, including the doctor whom I am quoting, who profoundly disagree. It is common for representative bodies to be out of step with ordinary members. If anything, the hon. Gentleman's point encourages me in my viewpoint.

The third question that we must ask is: what are the risks of repealing section 28? I and many hon. Members take a view about the importance of promoting conventional family life, and believe that promoting homosexuality risks undermining it. As I have explained, we believe that young children can be impressionable and open to pressures at the wrong time in their lives.

I happen to believe that there is too much pressure on young people, whatever their sexuality, to engage in early sexual experimentation—homosexual or heterosexual. Indeed, in the previous Parliament, I led a discussion from the Government Benches on a Bill to control the outrageous nature of teenage magazines for girls. I received great support on both sides of the House, for which I was grateful. We should be reluctant to promote anything that encourages excessive sexual experimentation.

My constituent, the doctor, says: Repeal would open the door, not just to the very proper factual and unbiased teaching about homosexuality which should form part of a sex education programme, but to this very overt encouragement— that is, encouragement to experiment. More importantly still, has the likelihood of this access to children being used by covert paedophiles been fully thought through? I ask this as someone who has spent time working in prison with sex offenders. Surely we would all wish to protect our children from this kind of risk? I doubt very much whether adequate procedures to prevent such exploitation could ever be guaranteed.

Ann Keen

Will the hon. Gentleman please clarify whether he is suggesting that sex offenders come under the category of homosexuals? That is certainly the impression that he is giving, and I am sure that he would not wish to do so.

Mr. Luff

No, of course I would not wish to give that impression. I am citing a consequence feared by a doctor who has worked in prisons with sex offenders. However, I am grateful for the hon. Lady's clarification.

Finally, my constituent raises a fundamental objection that goes to the heart of section 28 and the debate. She says: We should be very wary of using public funds to promote any kind of ideology, whatever its origin, but especially one where the targeted group is so young and vulnerable. That is the heart of the argument. All forms of discrimination are abhorrent. We do not have to promote Islam or Judaism to urge tolerance and understanding of Muslims and Jews. We do not have to promote homosexuality to fight prejudice, intolerance and bullying. All bullying in schools is abhorrent, whether on the grounds of race, obesity—as my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury said—wearing glasses, having red hair, being too clever or sexual orientation. Keeping section 28 would not be a bully's charter: it is misleading to argue that it would. The House should vote for the continuation of the section with absolute confidence.

Mr. Patrick Hall

The argument for section 28 and its retention, which the previous Government made in 1988, rests on the contention that homosexuality was being promoted deliberately among young children in schools. Of course, if that were true, I would agree that section 28 had a purpose. That contention has only one flaw: there was no evidence then that homosexuality was being promoted in schools, and there is no evidence now.

Let me deal briefly with a matter that has been raised mostly by Conservative Members today, but which has been raised by others in previous debates in this House and in the other place. It is claimed that an illegal and irresponsible way has been found to get pro-homosexual materials into schools in order to corrupt impressionable young children. Many who wish to retain section 28 have claimed, usually in the media, that if it were removed, a floodgate would be opened and such promotional material would re-emerge.

I believe that that material has never been promoted in schools. The whole thing was brought about by the Conservative Government setting up a false target to generate populist acclaim. They wanted to create an enemy, shoot it down and claim that they were doing a good job. That technique is well known and well tried in politics, and does a great deal of harm because it hurts people.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Did the hon. Gentleman visit the exhibition laid on by Lady Young in a Committee Room earlier this year? I assure him that that material exists and, if it exists in such quantities, I presume that there is an intention to use it.

Mr. Hall

I did not visit the exhibition. However, what I am about to say may deal with some of the matters that may have been in the exhibition.

From the work that I have done, it appears that two kinds of material have been referred to in debates here and in the media in the last few months. One is a group of videos prepared by the Terrence Higgins Trust to promote safe sex among gay men. I have not viewed any of that material, but I understand that it is sexually explicit and is specifically designed for adults. It is not used in schools and, given the considerably reduced incidence in the spread of HIV and AIDS compared with forecasts a decade or so ago, it is probable that such materials have been successful.

The other group of material that has been alluded to includes, as we heard today, the teachers' pack and video "Beyond a Phase", prepared by the Avon health authority. The video is subtitled "Talking about Gay and Lesbian Relationships" and the accompanying document is subtitled "A Practical Guide to Challenging Homophobia in Schools". That material has been prepared for teachers; it is not for promotion among children. I have a copy of the document and, like the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), I have watched the video. She and I have totally different interpretations of that video, and I think that it is necessary to state on the record that there is a different view of it.

In my opinion, that 14-minute film is humane, thought provoking and socially responsible. Of course, as the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) said, it could have been done better, but it has been misrepresented. It presents young people, whom I believe to be between the ages of 13 and 16, talking honestly and openly about discovering their sexuality. Many of them say that they have discovered their homosexuality. They talk about the pain, confusion, unhappiness and loneliness of realising that their sexuality places them in a small minority imprisoned by social prejudice. They talk about the bullying, harassment and abuse that they have received from some people. They explain how all that interferes with their studies and their ability to form friendships and relationships. Those children are speaking for themselves, and they offer insights into the fear and ignorance that presents them as unnatural and dehumanised.

At the very end of the film, one young person comments that he had thought about experimenting with boys and girls to discover his real feelings. That comment has been mentioned several times today; it has been mentioned in another place and in the press. It has deliberately been inaccurately reported as characterising the purpose of the whole film as advocating experimentation for all. Having seen the video, I know that that is a mischievous travesty of the truth.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will refer to the Government guidance for schools on sex and relationship education, which has already been referred to. Having seen the principles that the Department for Education and Employment set out some months ago, I believe that the approach that has been adopted is mature, balanced and caring. There is an urgent need for open information on these matters and for clearer, better sex education in this country.

We have not performed well in that respect, as is suggested by the fact that Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in the European Union and the evidence that children are becoming sexually active too young. Evidence from countries where there is more effective sex education shows that there has been an accompanying reduction in early sexual activity and that there are far fewer teenage pregnancies.

Mr. David Prior (North Norfolk)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hall

No, I do not have time.

Section 28, or section 2A as it is now called, gets in the way of the serious, necessary task of educating, bringing up and guiding all our children. It is born of prejudice; it seeks to perpetuate prejudice, and it has no place in a decent society.

Ms Armstrong

This has been an interesting debate. It is always difficult to have a reasoned and measured debate on this issue in the House. Among those participating in the debate, only the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and myself were present in the House in 1988 when clause 28 was added to a local government Bill. Because it was added to such a Bill, it seems perfectly logical to repeal it in another local government Bill. In my reading of those early debates and my memory of the feeling in the House at the time there was a lot of bigotry and prejudice driving the decision to include clause 28 in that Bill. That meant that, whatever the detail of the clause and the Bill, people thought at the time that the measure was homophobic, and that has had an effect.

5.45 m

We have heard about bullying from hon. Members on both sides of the argument. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) asked whether we think that section 28 should be repealed because it is not important, or because it has had such a strong effect. In a sense, the answer is both. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made it clear that section 28 should not have had an effect on the way in which teachers deal with bullying that is driven by homophobia. It should have had no effect on how children are treated in schools, but, for too many, it has had a very damaging effect on them as individuals.

Section 28 has bred the feeling that it is all right to have a go at homosexuals. None of us in the House has condoned that view today. Deciding whether that happens is inevitably a matter of judgment, but the evidence that has been quoted by my hon. Friends the Members for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Ann Keen) and by the hon. Member for Bath should at least be sufficient to make us all think about the actual effect of section 28, whatever its intention or whatever we read into its wording. If it has affected some people in a way that we say is intolerable, we must ask whether it is good legislation and whether it should exist.

The Government have made it absolutely clear that we do not think that section 28 is good legislation and that we are committed to the repeal of section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986, as it is properly called. We believe that the official Opposition are attempting to reinstate a flawed and offensive provision. Those in favour of its retention have argued that children are at risk, and I suspect that that argument has been used in most of the letters that hon. Members have received in support of its retention. Indeed, the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) has used that argument. However, the framework that the Government have put in place makes it absolutely clear to everyone, especially to those of us in the House, that the provision can have no effect on children in schools.

The arguments about how the previous Government dealt with such matters have been made, while ignoring the real changes that have taken place in the relationship between schools and local education authorities since the original legislation was passed. Given the safeguards that we are introducing under the Learning and Skills Bill and through our guidance on sex and relationship education, that argument is dishonest. It is clear that children in schools will be protected by the framework that we shall put in place under the Learning and Skills Bill.

Children are be protected from anything that local authorities or health authorities might seek to do in schools because we have placed the responsibility firmly on teachers and school governors. We have made it clear that LEAs have no power to determine sex education in schools. The Learning and Skills Bill states that bullying is unacceptable in any form—whether it is racial, the result of a pupil's appearance or related to sexual orientation.

Concern was expressed that by removing the measure we are saying that the promotion of homosexuality is all right. Local authorities are governed by Acts of Parliament, which make clear what they are able and not able to do, and the promotion of homosexuality is not within their scope anyway so that argument also falls. Some people say, "Local authorities and schools should not highlight any form of sexuality." I understand where they are coming from, but the problem is that homosexuality is a form of sexuality that has attracted bigotry and prejudice and highlighting it through section 28 has legitimised bigotry and prejudice in a way that no one in the House would tolerate. Therefore, the Government are determined to press ahead.

We do not want the House to promote bigotry and intolerance. We want to support everyone, recognising and celebrating difference and diversity while making sure that none of us has any truck with intolerance and bigotry. I hope that the House will vote in such way tonight.

Mr. Waterson

I do not want to revisit the arguments—I agree with my hon. Friends; this has been a good debate, marred only by the early intervention of the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw)—nor do I want to review all the speeches, although in their way they were classics on the subject, whichever side of the argument they supported. One cannot help but feel that the debate will not get an inch of coverage anywhere in the outside world, although it deserves coverage as the arguments have been put in an exemplary fashion. With no disrespect to other hon. Members who participated, I must single out the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Miss Smith), who made a speech of great courage and conviction, in equal measure. She deserves to be congratulated on that.

We still strongly believe that the Government are wrong: they have embarked on a course that could end in disaster in terms of lack of public support and that sends entirely the wrong message to schools and local authorities. We say that much more in sorrow than in anger, but in the hope and conviction that their lordships—who, as I said earlier, are often much more in tune with the popular mood than are the Government—will reinstate section 28 and, indeed, the amendment that forms part of the new clause.

I am conscious that the House would like a clear-cut vote on the central issue—section 28, or section 2A as it has been called. Although I shall press amendment No. 7 to a vote, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed: No. 7, in page 74, line 2, leave out clause 98.—[Mr. Waterson.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 305

Division No. 253] [5.54 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Amess, David Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Day, Stephen
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Donaldson, Jeffrey
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Duncan Smith, Iain
Beggs, Roy Evans, Nigel
Benton, Joe Fallon, Michael
Bercow, John Flight, Howard
Beresford, Sir Paul Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Body, Sir Richard Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Boswell, Tim Fox, Dr Liam
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Gale, Roger
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Garnier, Edward
Brady, Graham Gibb, Nick
Brazier, Julian Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Breed, Colin Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gray, James
Browning, Mrs Angela Green, Damian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Greenway, John
Burnett, John Grieve, Dominic
Burns, Simon Hague, Rt Hon William
Butterfill, John Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Chope, Christopher Hayes, John
Clappison, James Heald, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Horam, John
Collins, Tim Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cran James Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Jenkin, Bernard Ruffley, David
Key, Robert St Aubyn, Nick
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Sayeed, Jonathan
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Letwin, Oliver Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Spicer, Sir Michael
Lidington, David Spring, Richard
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Loughton, Tim Streeter, Gary
Luff, Peter Swayne, Desmond
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Syms, Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Tapsell, Sir Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne Taylor, John M (Solihull)
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Thompson, William
Maclean, Rt Hon David Tredinnick, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Trend, Michael
Madel, Sir David Tyrie, Andrew
Major, Rt Hon John Viggers, Peter
Maples, John Walter, Robert
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Waterson, Nigel
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Wells, Bowen
May, Mrs Theresa Whitney, Sir Raymond
Moss, Malcolm Whittingdale, John
Nicholls, Patrick Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Norman, Archie Willetts, David
Ottaway, Richard Wilshire, David
Paice, James Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Pickles, Eric Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Yeo, Tim
Prior, David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Tellers for the Ayes:
Robathan, Andrew Mr. Keith Simpson and
Robertson, Laurence Mrs. Eleanor Laing.
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Brand, Dr Peter
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brinton, Mrs Helen
Alexander, Douglas Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Allan, Richard Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Allen, Graham Browne, Desmond
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Buck, Ms Karen
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Burden, Richard
Ashton, Joe Burgon, Colin
Atherton, Ms Candy Burstow, Paul
Atkins, Charlotte Butler, Mrs Christine
Austin, John Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Baker, Norman Cable, Dr Vincent
Ballard, Jackie Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Barron, Kevin Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Battle, John Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Campbell-Savours, Dale
Begg, Miss Anne Caplin, Ivor
Beith, Rt Hon A J Caton, Martin
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Chaytor, David
Bennett, Andrew F Chidgey, David
Berry, Roger Clapham, Michael
Best, Harold Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Betts, Clive Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Borrow, David Clelland, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Clwyd, Ann
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Bradshaw, Ben Cooper, Yvette
Brake, Tom Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian Illsley, Eric
Cousins, Jim Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Crausby, David Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Jamieson, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Jenkins, Brian
Cummings, John Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Darvill, Keith Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Keeble, Ms Sally
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Davidson, Ian Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Keetch, Paul
Denham, John Kelly, Ms Ruth
Dismore, Andrew Kemp, Fraser
Donohoe, Brian H Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Doran, Frank
Drew, David Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Drown, Ms Julia Kidney, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Kirkwood, Archy
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Edwards, Huw Lammy, David
Efford, Clive Laxton, Bob
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lepper, David
Ennis, Jeff Leslie, Christopher
Fearn, Ronnie Levitt, Tom
Field, Rt Hon Frank Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Fisher, Mark Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Fitzpatrick, Jim Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Flynn, Paul Llwyd, Elfyn
Foster, Don (Bath) Lock, David
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McAvoy, Thomas
Foulkes, George McCabe, Steve
Fyfe, Maria McCafferty, Ms Chris
Galloway, George McDonagh, Siobhain
George, Andrew (St Ives) McDonnell, John
Gerrard, Neil McGuire, Mrs Anne
Gibson, Dr Ian McIsaac, Shona
Gidley, Sandra McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Godman, Dr Norman A McNulty, Tony
Godsiff, Roger Mactaggart, Fiona
Goggins, Paul McWalter, Tony
Golding, Mrs Llin McWilliam, John
Gordon, Mrs Eileen Mahon, Mrs Alice
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Mallaber, Judy
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Grocott, Bruce Martlew, Eric
Gunnell, John Merron, Gillian
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hanson, David Miller, Andrew
Harris, Dr Evan Moffatt, Laura
Harvey, Nick Moore, Michael
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Moran, Ms Margaret
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hepburn, Stephen Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith Mountford, Kali
Hinchliffe, David Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hodge, Ms Margaret Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Naysmith, Dr Doug
Hopkins, Kelvin Norris, Dan
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Oaten, Mark
Howells, Dr Kim Öpik, Lembit
Hoyle, Lindsay Organ, Mrs Diana
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Humble, Mrs Joan Palmer, Dr Nick
Hutton, John Pearson, Ian
Iddon, Dr Brian Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin Stunell, Andrew
Pike, Peter L Sutcliffe, Gerry
Plaskitt, James Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Pope, Greg Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Pound, Stephen Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Temple-Morris, Peter
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Purchase, Ken Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce Tipping, Paddy
Quinn, Lawrie Todd, Mark
Rapson, Syd Touhig, Don
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Trickett, Jon
Rendel, David Truswell, Paul
Roche, Mrs Barbara Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Rooney, Terry Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Ruane, Chris Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Ruddock, Joan Tyler, Paul
Ryan, Ms Joan Vis, Dr Rudi
Savidge, Malcolm Walley, Ms Joan
Sawford, Phil Ward, Ms Claire
Sedgemore, Brian Wareing, Robert N
Sheerman, Barry Watts, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Webb, Steve
Shipley, Ms Debra White, Brian
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Skinner, Dennis Wicks, Malcolm
Smith, Angela (Basildon) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Willis, Phil
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns) Wills, Michael
Soley, Clive Winnick, David
Southworth, Ms Helen Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Spellar, John Wood, Mike
Squire, Ms Rachel Woodward, Shaun
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Woolas, Phil
Steinberg, Gerry Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stevenson, George Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Wyatt, Derek
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Tellers for the Noes:
Stringer, Graham Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Stuart, Ms Gisela Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived

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