HL Deb 04 December 1957 vol 206 cc753-832

3.45 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, after that interval of comparatively light relief may I return to a matter which is of even more profound significance. I do not intend to speak from any particular Christian grounds: I assume only the generally accepted beliefs of theists, and, indeed, of every reasonable and responsible citizen. This Report has already accomplished two great things, one deliberately and one by accident. It has compelled people to think about and compare the sphere of crime and the sphere of sin, in the sense of an offence against the general moral standards of the community, and that is all I ask for in using the word "sin." Of course the two spheres overlap, but they are not coterminous, and it is of real importance for the national well-being that the difference between the two should be clearly understood, both as to the moral grounds they respectively cover and as to the sanctions on which the two spheres respectively rest.

One of my correspondents boldly writes to me: "So far as possible, every sin should be declared a crime "—which is precisely the belief of the totalitarian State, which defines its own sense of sin and then makes it a crime. I am afraid that there is a very common belief that only crimes are sins and that the not illegal is therefore lawful and right. That such a belief should continue is a very dangerous thing. There is a phrase, Pro saluti animæ et pro reformatione morum. The State and the Law are not concerned directly, as the Church is, with saving the souls of men from their own destruction. The right to decide one's own moral code and obey it, even to a man's own hurt, is a fundamental right of man, given him by God and to be strictly respected by society and the criminal code.

I believe that it is of vital importance to maintain this principle against the law and against society. Indeed, it may at any time feel compelled to invoke the law against some organ of publicity which in one way or another so intrudes a moral code of its own, and so employs the powers of publicity and suggestion, as almost to impose that code upon society; and at least the private rights of a citizen so to choose his own moralities and protect his own privacies against some forms of publicity must not be allowed to be outraged. The State becomes concerned only when for the general good, for the protection of those who need protection, or for the promotion of a healthy community life—pro reformation morum—it ought to act. Of course in this sphere there will always be special and borderline cases. As an example of a special case there is the protection of the young, or (a subject to which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has referred), the need to discourage suicide and suicide pacts. Such cases create especial problems and justify interference with private rights. And there are also the borderline cases, and homosexual offences may come under this category.

In general, however, a sin is not made a crime until it becomes a cause of public offence, although it remains a sin whether or not it be a crime. That is obvious enough but great numbers of people, having lost the sense of sin, have lost sight of this distinction, and it is most valuable that this Report should cast the limelight once more upon it. Secondly, although the Report refuses to consider it, it must make people think about the difference between what is natural and what is unnatural. There is a great general moral indignation against homosexual sins because they are unnatural. There is a queer lack of general moral indignation against heterosexual sins, fornication and adultery, because they are supposed to be natural, and therefore, in some sense, less wrong.

There is here a serious and now very dangerous confusion of thought. Nature makes both heterosexuals and homosexuals alike—there is no doubt about that. Nature makes more heterosexuals than homosexuals, thank God!, but we are told with authority that, in varied proportions, both tendencies are present in every one of us. What is thus unnatural is bad and must be disciplined; but much of what is natural, if left to itself, is equally bad and must no less be disciplined. Both homosexual and heterosexual sins or vices may become something more than private; then they raise questions of public morality, though I would say that they do not necessarily raise them equally. For in my judgment the threat to general public moral standards from homosexual offences done in private is far less, and far less widespread, than the damage openly done to public morality and domestic health by fornication and adultery. The principle here is that what man is made of in his instincts by nature is less important than what he is made for, and can be shaped to by the influence of the community, by training and, if necessary, by the processes of law.

My Lords, it is in the light of these principles that I wish to make a few observations on the recommendations of the Report. Here I would briefly report that the Church Assembly had a most admirable talk upon this whole Report, and its results are not without significance. For the principles of the Report there was a majority so large that no division was necessary. On the question of the immediate application of the recommendations about homosexuality there was a vote which resulted in a small majority of 17 in favour of the Committee's recommendation of at once applying this principle. The vote was, in fact, 155 to 138. I believe that that is significant, for it means that quite a number of people who accepted the principle were yet so disturbed that they did not think it was expedient or wise to apply it forthwith; and there are many people who, very naturally, hold that view.

First, a word as to homosexual offences. I believe that the Report is right in recommending that, while all existing laws shall remain in force to protect and control those under 21, and to protect the unwilling over that age, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private should not come within the ambit of the law. That seems to me right in principle. There will be misunderstanding and talk of "legalising homosexuality and unnatural vice," but at least it is not a bad thing to start from the right principle. There appears to me to be one great immediate benefit from obeying this principle. I have reason to believe that great pressure is often put upon a consenting adult, once he has consented, to continue this practice when, left to himself, he would like to get free of it.

I have known a young man wishing to get free pursued by his partner from Australia to this country and so brought back into the practice. I have known another young man in the provinces though wishing to get free, leaving the provinces and being recommended on to fresh friends and partners, first from the provinces to London and later, when he left London for a country overseas, to partners in that country. There are, I believe groups or clubs of homosexuals with an organisation of their own, with a language of their own and a kind of freemasonry from which it is not at all easy to escape. So long as homosexual offences between consenting adults are criminal and punishable by law, the pressure of this kind of freemasonry will remain and will operate powerfully, for it gains strength from the fact that it must remain a secret society to avoid the law. It has all the glamour and romance of chosen and select rebels against the conventions of society and the forces of the law.

At the heart of this kind of freemasonry are men of passionate sincerity who are made strongly homosexual by nature; who believe that what is wrong for others is right for them, and that society is not merely hostile but unjust and cruel. Into this kind of nightmare world—for it is a nightmare world—there can be no entrance for the forces of righteousness until the offences are made not criminal, so that there is no question any longer of betraying companions for committing criminal offences. At once, I am quite certain, the fresh air of normal morality will begin to circulate amongst them far more easily. Those who are involved in it will be set free to talk to others outside without giving anybody away to the law. They will seek advice openly—indeed, they will be free, if they like, to seek protection by the police from molestation by their former companions without bringing in the question of prosecution for illegal offences. It will be all the more easy, I think, to convince them of the restraints of common sense and Christian morality when they are delivered from the fears, the glamour and even the crusading spirit of the rebel against law and convention who can claim to be made a martyr by persecution.

I know many people have grave hesitation about this recommendation. They think it will lead to an increase in offences. Their information may be different from mine, and it is not at all easy to be dogmatic; but, like the Church Assembly itself, I feel that if there is a doubt the risk should be taken. I would add only this one further reflection: that if it proved legally possible—I do not know whether it is—to separate what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, called the extreme offence, and to leave that still a crime, I should wish to leave it a crime still. The Report goes so far as to say this: We believe that there is some case for retaining sodomy as a separate offence. I believe that if that could be done, it would relieve the anxieties, fears and indignation of a great number of people; and. more than that, I believe that this crime does stand in a class by itself and is almost different in kind from other homosexual offences.

I believe personally that that opinion can be upheld on moral grounds. Unlike the Report, I believe also that many active homosexuals really feel that in that extreme offence there is a degree of depravity to which they are thankful not to have fallen or in which they are especially reluctant to be partners. And I believe it would help them and public opinion and public morals if that extreme offence remained, as now, a crime. That would, in fact, only revert to what was the law up to 1885. I believe a study of Appendix I of the Report will show that there is a reason for retaining this offence as a crime, since this particular offence has increased in a far higher proportion than any other of the homosexual offences.

On the other part of the Report, I wish to confine myself to one main argument only. The argument of the Report conies to this: prostitution is not an offence; it is a private affair between two consenting adults and no concern of the law; but so far as possible (the argument goes on) it must be kept private and, therefore, we will drive prostitutes off the streets so that there may be no visible offence to public morals. The Report recognises that there are some consequences of this private traffic which obtrude themselves and must be dealt with, such as exploitation of the private traffic for gain, living on the earnings of prostitutes, causing houses or a neighbourhood to become a public nuisance, and the like.

But, my Lords, there are other obtrusive consequences of the utmost gravity for the social well-being of our people which the Report leaves completely untouched and for which it has no remedy at all. One is what I am told is called "kerb crawling". The Report says: While we appreciate the reality of the problem … we do not feel able to make any positive recommendation. The Committee can make no recommendation on how to deal with the problem. That weak conclusion makes me very uneasy. The Report recognises that if the streets are cleared "there will doubtless be consequences" and various other ways of arranging the trade" under the counter "are anticipated. But the Committee conclude: We feel that the possible consequences of clearing the streets are less harmful than "— what now exists. Main, I feel uneasy at this conclusion and at this impotence to deal with the problem. To drive a thing underground is sometimes the worst way of dealing with it and not the best.

Attention has been drawn, in public, to one particular paragraph which refers to the use by prostitutes of cafes and clubs and even licensed premises, and it says: In two large cities … certain public houses, cafes and coffee stalls are known to be frequented by prostitutes … but in neither of these cities is there any significant street problem. That is according to the Report, not according to public morality. The Report suggests that in such cases too rigorous an enforcement of the law might have the result of driving inoffensive prostitutes on to the streets where their presence would offend. Again, I am terribly uneasy if all we can do is turn a blind eye to the problem. The argument is that we must drive prostitutes off the streets; if then they congregate in clubs, cafés, at coffee stalls or elsewhere, these must be treated as private places and, therefore (unless the neighbourhood is offended), as privileged places, for if we do otherwise we shall drive the prostitutes back to the streets just when we have succeeded in driving them off the streets. This is no solution. There seems something "phoney" about all this.

I wholly accept the principle that consenting adults in private, whether the offences be homosexual or heterosexual, should not come under the law. I said there were special cases, borderline cases. The Report gets really into trouble met trying to decide in this context what is private and what is public. The root of the confusion, my Lords—it may be that I shall not carry you with me in saying this—seems to lie here: prostitution is not a private occupation; it is a trade and nothing else, and if it is a trade then it has to be dealt with as any other trade. It is a trading transaction between two persons engaged in what is a very long-established trade.

The Wolfenden Report says that driving prostitutes off the streets is not "mere hypocrisy". It says it would be if we were avowedly trying to extinguish prostitution, for in that case the less open, carrying on of the trade would be as objectionable as the open carrying on of the trade. Yes, my Lords, but if you are looking at public morality and the general concern of the community—that this particular evil thing should not be allowed to flourish—whether it flourishes openly or in secret, it is equally against the public interest; and I would repeat that it is not a private affair and cannot be—it is a trade of buying and selling. The Report wants to make it more "under the counter" than it was before. But public morality wants. I submit, to curb the whole trade.

It is not, I imagine, possible to abolish it—it has gone on for 2,000 years and will go on—but I do not want it to go on without a good many impediments for it to overcome. We should curb the trade, believing that the fewer prostitutes, the fewer fornicators, and the fewer adulterers there are in the community the better equipped the nation will be to get on with its own communal life. Once the trade is recognised as a trade akin, shall we say, to traffic in drugs or the like, the whole approach is altered.

I should become not less but more anxious to secure fair and just treatment for the prostitutes, just for the reason that hitherto they have been made to bear the whole brunt of legal actions against this trade. I believe that Society in general has been of a split mind on the matter. It has been agreed that prostitution is undesirable as a profession, and it is accepted that prostitutes must be kept out of sight. It has been taken for granted that their customers, men, have every right to a reasonable supply of prostitutes, and should not in any way be restrained from resorting to them. I venture to say that that is an old-fashioned view—it certainly goes back 2,000 years, dating from the time when women had no rights, and men, in the sexual field, claimed and possessed almost unlimited rights. If, in fact, this is a trade, with women the sellers and men the buyers, and if the trade is against the public interest and public morals, then it is a fact that the women have borne the whole brunt of their own and their customers' complicity in this trade. And they are still to do so—according to this Report. They and they alone can be arrested in the streets for being traders on the look out for business. The customers, even if they are kerb crawlers, are innocent and untouchable.

I do not think that this kind of arrangement holds in the traffic in illegal drugs. It is the possession which is illegal, without distinction between buyer and seller. The Report says that there are limits to the degree of discouragement which the criminal law can properly exercise towards a woman who chooses this way of life. That is perfectly true. But are there no methods by which restraint by the criminal law can be brought to bear upon the customer in the case of prostitution? The preliminaries must take place in public where they meet, or by means of some public service, like public telephone boxes and the rest of it. It is a trade and nothing else. The safeguard of "in private" is quite irrelevant. So far in our history the prostitute can in various ways be got at and restrained. There has been little serious attempt to get at, to restrain or to punish, the customer—the man.

I would submit that it is time that a serious attempt was made to do just that one thing. It is far the quickest way to restrain the trade. Very many men would be strongly restrained if there was a fear that they would find themselves the next day in the police court and their names then made public. I do not believe that the lawyers would be utterly unable to find some way of getting the men there along with the prostitutes if the community said that they were to find a way.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, it is, of course, a great privilege to follow the most reverend Primate. It is also a great handicap, and I should like to say a humble word to him—a word of admiration for his very wise speech. I should also like to congratulate him on his bravery, because I think it was a very brave speech, coming from one occupying the position which he does. I wish to reiterate the congratulations which were offered by the noble Lord the mover of this Motion to Sir John Wolfenden and the members of his Committee. What a very unpleasant task they had! And when they have completed it after two years of study, what happens to them? They are pilloried in the Press as trying only to make conduct between homosexuals legal, and one member of the Committee who was a Member of Parliament was almost hounded out of his constituency because he had subscribed to the recommendations. I think that such things give little encouragement to anyone to carry out public duties, and I find it wholly deplorable.

The Wolfenden Report was really born of a debate that took place in this House. And this House is a singularly good place in which to debate this difficult subject, because your Lordships do not have a constituency, or rather constituents, looking over your shoulder to note what you say. That is always a difficult situation for a Member of Parliament. I think it was a pity that the Lord Chancellor added the question of prostitution to the very broad one of homosexuality for the Committee's consideration. They are two separate things and they should never have been investigated by the same Committee.

I should like first to say a few words on the subject of prostitution. What strikes me as very remarkable in these goody-goody days is that no one wants to abolish it, and in that respect the situation and the trend of thought to-day seems to be very much as it was in the days of one of the most reverend Primate's predecessors, Saint Augustine, who declared that just as the executioner, however repulsive he may be, occupies a necessary place in society, so the prostitute and her like, however sordid and ugly and wicked they may be, are equally necessary. Remove prostitutes from human affairs, he said, and the world would be polluted with lust. That is a very remarkable thing for a fine old father of a Church like Saint Augustine to have said. But there it is. We have nearly got rid of the executioner, but the prostitute remains firmly with us.

The noble Lord who moved the Motion to-day quoted some lines of Lecky but not the ones which I thought he might have quoted. At the end, your Lordships may remember, of the passage on prostitutes, he wrote: On that one degraded and ignoble form are concentrated the passions that might have filled the world with shame. She remains, while creeds and civilisations rise and fall, the eternal priestess of humanity, blasted for the sins of the people". That is a fine piece of English, and at the time it was written it must have been extremely good. If anyone wrote it today he would be accused of having his tongue in his cheek. That is the way things change. We have to remember that during wars, sexual morals go down, and there is no doubt about it that after the First World War the spread of the amateur nearly ruined the trade of prostitution. The very rise of prostitution which we notice to-day is a satisfactory thing, because it means that in private morals throughout the country there is a sterner and a better system than before.

Now the gravamen of the charge against prostitutes, curiously enough, is not a moral one: it is that they are a nuisance. The inhabitants of Mayfair take the gravest exception not only to not being able to park their cars but to the streets becoming a parade of prostitutes, and I must say that I have the greatest sympathy with them. But what does the Report do? It does not really deal fundamentally with the question at all. What it does is to start "chivvying" prostitutes more than they were "chivvied" before. I thought that the most reverend Primate made an extremely good point about the "chivvying" which is always going to happen. He said that they were going to be put into premises. That is what will happen and we shall get back to the situation which some of the older Members of your Lordships' House will remember, of the restaurant rather like "The Continental", which was very enjoyable but looked on as most immoral—I do not know why. I do not see anything very helpful in the Report there. I agree with the most reverend Primate that it is an odd thing indeed that the man who is a potent factor in the trade can do nothing wrong. He comes out of it as a sort of hero. Frankly, that is a situation which I find one-sided and to which I cannot subscribe.

Now we come to the much more serious situation, the homosexual side. I would say a word in general, more especially in favour, if I can, of recommendation No. (i). A lot of our troubles started with the Labouchere Amendment to the 1885 Act. The Bill was to make further provisions for the protection of women and girls and for the suppression of brothels, but right at the end Mr. Labouchere added a clause making indecent acts between males in public and in private a criminal offence. It was never even debated; it was passed without debate. It shows the weakness of another place that nobody got up to protest because they would have been accused immediately in their constituencies of being in favour of homosexual acts. We are almost suffering from the same thing to-day. Had Mr. Labouchere suggested that fornication should be punishable by law, it would have been very difficult for anybody to have got up in favour of fornication, normally speaking, and we might to-day have been in the situation of trying to make fornication not a crime.

Dr. Bailey. of the Church of England Moral Welfare Committee, deals extremely well in his book, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition, with the savagery which takes place in legislation against the homosexual, based on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to him, the Jews did not put the disaster down in any way to homosexuality. That idea was started many hundreds of years later and was based on the curious fact that someone elected to translate the word meaning "know" as "having carnal intercourse with". I venture to say that if we are going through history reading the word "know" as "having carnal intercourse with", we are going to get some curious results.

The Greeks, who had no knowledge of Sodom and Gomorrah, had a curious view on homosexuality. They almost condoned it, but no Divine hydrogen bomb fell upon them. What surprises me on this subject, about which people hold such terribly strong views, is that in debates here and in articles in the Press the idea is put forward that indulging in homosexual occupations is a temptation. It is not a temptation to the normal man in any way at all. There may be a temptation in stealing—very delightful if you can get away with it—or you may like to murder your enemy. All these things have their charm. To the ordinary, standard, moral—and when I say "moral" I mean normal—man, to ask him to indulge in homosexuality is to ask him to indulge in what to him is repugnant and disgusting, nothing else.

But when we speak about the repugnance and the disgust of the act, we have to face the fact that all sexual intercourse, be it heterosexual or homosexual, if it is looked at anatomically and physiologically, is not very attractive. But along comes the glamour of love; and that is a mystical, creative, Divine force which comes over two people and makes all things seem natural and normal. And what we have to get into our heads, although it is difficult, is that that glamour of love, odd as it may sound, is just as much present between two homosexuals as it is between a man and a woman. Perhaps that is a terrible thing, but it exists and we cannot get away from it. We are all born not all the same. We may be right-handed or left-handed, intelligent or not intelligent, but we ought to thank our Maker that we are not born warped as to sex, because no more terrible affliction can be imposed on anyone.

These people are self-eliminating. They do not breed. They do very little harm if left to themselves. I feel myself that to have on the Statute Book of this great country imprisonment for life for one act of homosexuality between men is almost going back to the time when people were hanged for stealing five shillings. Because we do not understand the mysteries of sex; because we do not understand the terrible handicap of an invert, it surely should not be in our traditions to beat our breasts and say, "We are holier than thou ", and to persecute. I do not think this trouble is epidemic in any way; it cannot spread. One day, when we know more about sex, we may bring happiness to many. But do not think that that is going to be easy, because when we are talking about sex, we are talking about one of the only times when we are divine; that is, when we are creating. Consequently, we shall always be rather like a clock trying to understand itself.

Sometimes, my Lords, great wisdom reposes in the sayings of the man in the street, and I should like to quote a saying that is known so well, when somebody is referred to as "the poor bugger ". In those three words is a wealth of human understanding and charity towards a member of our race who has not been given the advantages of others—"the poor bugger". We must not laugh at India, with their untouchables; we have our untouchables here in these poor people who are inverts. If there is one thing that I deplore more than anything else, it is the inclination in some quarters to indulge in witch hunts.

What are we going to do about it? The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, is going to speak this afternoon, and there is nobody who is not looking forward to listening to what he has to say. We know what Governments are. We here are all legislators with our feet on the ground. Governments do not like grasping the nettle. Things like betting they do not like, and try to avoid; and there is no doubt that they are going to try to avoid this. I do not think for one moment that the Lord Chancellor will accept recommendation. No. (i). But I wonder whether he could give us some of the things which would represent an advance, such as recommendation No. (iv): That no proceedings be taken…except by the Director of Public Prosecutions.… Then, could he give us recommendation No. (ix): That except for some grave reason, proceedings be not instituted in respect of homosexual offences incidentally revealed in the course of investigating allegations of blackmail. It was the Labouchere Amendment which was described as "the blackmailer's charter"; and that is very true. Then again, there is recommendation No. (xiii), not to proceed after twelve months have elapsed. I do not think there would be any great political opposition to those particular things, and they would represent a start. In the future, perhaps, when this whole subject which is now being ventilated—and it could not have been twenty years ago—is more understood, and when we have a little more knowledge of it, we may go further. We shall await the Lord Chancellor's remarks this afternoon with great interest.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I rise with considerable hesitation to speak for the first time in your Lordships' House. My hesitation is the greater after the privilege of listening to the profound, wise and, if I may say so, witty speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and because your Lordships are waiting to hear the noble and learned Viscount, The Lord Chancellor, speak. However, there are one or two matters on which I feel it is my duty to speak to your Lordships, because I am Chairman of the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, and to that Council the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has just referred. I wish to put before your Lordships certain comments made by this Council on the prostitution section of the Wolfenden Report. Before doing that, I should like to pay my tribute to the immense amount of careful, thorough and costly thought and hard work that has been put into this Report by Sir John Wolfenden and the fellow members of his Committee.

The Report of the Moral Welfare Council on homosexuality was before your Lordships in the debate in 1954, and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, then described it as a document remarkable for its understanding, for its charity, for its endeavours to protect the young and for all the difficult problems which arise which it faces so completely. It is good to be able to report that the Wolfenden Committee, in its proposals, followed almost exactly in substance the recommendations made by our Council. I would say just a word or two about this Council. There are 700 moral welfare workers in the English dioceses. Women, who might be described as the church's family case workers, are constantly concerned with girls who are on the fringe of the unknown world of the prostitute. The training that our workers have received enables them to assess the strength and weaknesses of many women who are in moral danger. I speak as one who has learned much from these workers, who have done such good work for our Church and our country. In speaking in your Lordships' House, I am passing on the comments of our Council and, in turn, they have drawn on the knowledge and experience of these 700 workers.

Our Council supports the Wolfenden Committee in adhering to the principle that the law cannot, and therefore should not, try to abolish prostitution; in maintaining that the institution of licensed brothels and the medical control of prostitutes would be a retrograde step; and in recommending that the law protecting the prostitute from exploitation should be rigorously enforced and extended; and we welcome the recommendation that women police be encouraged to take every legitimate opportunity to dissuade young girls from following a life of prostitution, by giving them advice and by helping them, rather than by involving them in the machinery of the law. Our Council would emphasise that, if the courts are to remand in custody for a social and medical report young prostitutes who are convicted of solicitation, that should be in remand centres, as soon as they are available, and not in prison.

Certain of the Wolfenden Committee's conclusions we view with reserve and criticism. The most reverend Primate, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, has referred to the insufficient attention paid to the man—and that is the first point I will try to support. The client—a polite term for one who is a fornicator or an adulterer—gets off too easily. It is not sufficiently recognised, I would submit, that prostitution is a problem relating to two people: the man, to pay, and the woman, to receive payment. It is surprising that in the section of the Report on prostitution the man is mentioned in only four paragraphs. Behind them, as we have learned, are the brothel keepers and the other agents, whose one aim is to increase their money for gain. I should like to support the comment made by the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene: We contrast"— this body said— the Wolfenden Committee's balanced and courageous approach to the problem of homosexuality, with its implicit acceptance in regard to prostitution of the age-old creed that promiscuity is inevitable for men, and that the women who supply their needs are social pests who should be banished from public view so that society can ignore the problem. Our Council has set on foot a small research project on the clients who resort to prostitutes. I have received first impressions from a doctor—one of the researchers—on his interviews at a V.D. clinic. The strongest single impression lie had, which was unexpected, was of the loneliness of these clients, He said that they were eager to confide in someone interested in them. The doctor's second surprise was that the men he had so far interviewed were a remarkably decent lot of people. He described them as friendly, sociable, warmhearted, honest and sympathetic. Their behaviour with prostitutes is a blind spot. He says: They clearly had to despise prostitutes to go with them; to de-humanise them to be able to use them. Our evidence so far points in this direction: that it is men who have had a disturbed home life in their early days who go to prostitutes.

There is corresponding evidence from prostitutes that it is loneliness that has driven them to prostitution. Prostitutes said a probation officer who had seen much of them, never talk of their clients. They do not mention the men. They talk of their girl friends; and these are prostitutes—difficult or frail personalities who could not stand up to the world and drifted into this life. As the Committee have said, prostitution can in the last resort be remedied only by education. What is wanted is more means of bringing reassurance and self-confidence to young people on the basis of sex morality. May I say a word about driving prostitutes from the streets? I support entirely what the most reverend Primate has said on this over-emphasis. May I give your Lordships an illustration? The Rural Dean of Stepney published in the summer a statement on crime in Stepney which, I believe, was circulated to your Lordships. The story was that certain café proprietors and others encouraged the influx of women into the district because the immoral earnings of such women were a lucrative source of untaxable income. The women, as the Report says, are idle and homeless, the rejects of civil society, who find with other prostitutes a fellowship they fail to find in other social movements.

In May of this year the Rural Dean visited every club, café and public house in the area. He saw thirty prostitutes and one policeman. Since May, the ordinary citizens of Stepney have been roused to the situation in their borough. They became alive to the problem, and since May more police, especially women, have been introduced into the district. When, in October of this year, the Rural Dean visited the same district, he found one prostitute and thirty police. Where are they? The answer is, "In the cafés." The cafés have, in a certain number of cases, since May become clubs, and the Rural Dean cannot get in.

It has been stated in the Press that if the Government towards the end of the Session bring in a Bill to change the law dealing with prostitution, making the Wolfenden recommendations their guide, they can take heart that a consensus of public opinion is clearly formed on this subject since the Wolfenden Report appeared. If that statement means that informed public opinion generally is behind these recommendations, I would question its accuracy. I greatly hope that the Lord Chancellor may be able to give us some information about the research the Government have in mind, and that the research will be into the whole Problem of the men who go to the prostitutes, as well as the prostitutes themselves. I hope the Home Secretary, when he considers his responsibilities and the steps he should initiate to follow this most welcome Report, will remember the dictum of his ancestor Josephine Butler—and her name I think should be mentioned in this debate: All proposals for dealing with solicitation and other repressive measures applied to women alone, while they have an appearance of virtue about them, have this evil in them—that they tend to foster in the minds of men that unequal moral standard which is at the bottom of the whole mischief.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, it is my very pleasant duty and privilege to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on the maiden speech which he has just made to the House. In my case, I do it in two rights—first, in right of my admiration for the speech and for the right reverend Prelate, and, secondly, in right of the admiring affection which was felt for his father by everyone connected with Merseyside. I hope that he will often address us and give us the benefit of such wise and thoughtful words.

I feel that everyone in the House this afternoon whatever views he has formed on the Report will be in agreement that our thanks are due in no small measure to Sir John Wolfenden and his Committee for a remarkable Report. My right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Scotland and I appointed this Committee in 1954. We were under no illusions as to the difficulty of the task which we were asking them to perform. The care and thoroughness with which they have carried out that task has been widely recognised, and their clear and logical Report has not only aroused a general interest which has few precedents among the Reports of Departmental Committees, but will remain of permanent value to all who are concerned with the perplexing human problems which the Committee had to consider.

It is remarkable, too, that in a field where opinions differ so widely, the Committee were able to reach so large a measure of agreement. I say again that the Government are most grateful to the Chairman and members for their patient and untiring work and, of course, we have given and are giving the Report the most careful consideration. I should like to add just one personal word. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to make a special expression of gratitude to the Member of your Lordships' House, the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who was one of this Committee. If he will allow an elderly friend of his family for many years to say so, I was particularly grateful to him, one of the younger Members of your Lordships' House, for accepting so grave a duty in so intractable a subject.

My Lords, it is important, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, reminded us, to remember the terms of reference of the Committee. Lord Pakenham stressed that in the sphere of homosexuality we are dealing with the law and practice, and the treatment of persons convicted, and also, in the realm of prostitution, the law and practice relating to offences against the criminal law in connection with prostitution and solicitation for immoral purposes. It should be noted, if I may put it in other words, as the Committee themselves pointed out, that they were concerned with the law and offences against it; and that questions of theology and morals, sociology and hygiene, and speculation as to the causes of homosexuality or prostitution, fascinating and important though they may be, were outside the scope of their terms of reference. It may sound odd at first sight, but of course the Government, in considering the recommendations of the Committee, will naturally have to take account of factors which were outside the limits of the Committee's inquiry. But I think it is fair to say that the Government's main problem is to decide whether or not to accept the recommendations for changes in the law which the Committee have made.

I ask your Lordships to bear with me if I follow for a short time the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury into some consideration of the function of law and compulsion in the modern State. I think that few people would disagree with the Committee's proposition that it is not the function of the law to attempt to cover all the fields of sexual behaviour. But when we seek to define the proper scope of the law, and to say what is the sphere of conduct which is best left to the individual conscience and what is the sphere in which the State, acting through the criminal law, has a duty to impose general standards, there are wide and deep differences of opinion. The Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, pointed out in his most thoughtful speech, state it as their view that the function of the law in the field of sexual behaviour is first to preserve public order and decency; second, to protect the citizen from what is offensive and injurious; and third, to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others. The Committee again frankly admitted that opinion will differ as to what is offensive, injurious or inimical to the common good. And here, indeed, lies the centre of the discussion and controversy which this Report has aroused.

That being so, it is important that the Government should pay the utmost regard to all sections of onion, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already said in another place that before we can reach any final conclusion on the Report we wish to take careful account of public opinion, and we are, naturally, most anxious to have the views of Members of your Lordships' House. That is why I am truly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for bringing forward this debate. The House will understand that I am not in a position to do more than indicate the general lines upon which the Government are thinking. Nevertheless, the Committee's Report has been available for three months, and it is right that we should indicate our preliminary views.

I turn first to the part of the Report which deals with homosexual offences, and any one who has had experience of the administration of the criminal law knows what tragic problems are presented in many of these cases. The Committee have frankly and fairly discussed the matter, and they have recognised and taken into account the fact that the attitude of the criminal law in this country towards conduct of this kind is not the same as that which is taken in many other countries. The most far-reaching and widely discussed of the Committee's proposals is, of course, that homosexual behaviour in private between consenting adults should no longer be a criminal offence. I think it is fair to say that that proposal has attracted considerable support, including some support in informed and responsible quarters; at the same time it has been widely criticized, and again some of the criticism has been well-informed and responsible. One must notice—Lord Pakenham fairly drew attention to the point—that on this recommendation there is a dissentient among the members of the Committee.

My Lords, it is important—and this importance is underlined by part of the argument of the most reverend Primate—just to consider for a moment what are the main prohibitions of the law. The first is, of course, what we have agreed to call the full offence, which is forthrightly named in its ordinary terms in the Report, in the terms of the English Statute and the Scottish Statute. That is a felony, punishable by imprisonment for life, under Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956; and it includes certain offences which are not homosexual—I am not going into those to-day. Then, secondly, there is the attempt to commit the full offence, which is punishable by ten years' imprisonment. Thirdly, there is the offence of indecent assault by a male upon a male which is punishable by ten years' imprisonment; and finally, there is the commission of acts of gross indecency between males, which is punishable by up to two years' imprisonment, under Section 13 of the same Act. The law in Scotland makes a similar distinction between the various offences.

It is important, and anyone who has any doubt about its importance must have had that doubt entirely displaced by the speech of the most reverend Primate, to remember that the Committee's recommendations affect both the full offence and an attempt, as well as an offence of gross indecency between males. It is my considered view that it would obviously be a serious step to reverse the provisions of the criminal law which have stood for a long time, and any Government 'would be bound to think long and carefully before deciding to do so. There are cases, which I should be prepared to argue, with great enjoyment to myself, when it may well be the duty of a Government to lead rather than to follow public opinion, but in a matter of this kind the general sense of the community, particularly as expressed in Statutes which have been left undisturbed for long periods, is an important feature; and the community is entitled to its view as to what affects society as a whole. Her Majesty's Government do not think that the general sense of the community is with the Committee in this recommendation, and therefore they think that the problem requires further study and consideration. Certainly there can be no prospect of early legislation on this subject.

The argument has been put forward very forcibly in different forms from different quarters that for the State to remove the sanctions of the criminal law from homosexual behaviour, even beween consenting adults in private, and even with the limitation mentioned by the most reverend Primate for the full offence, would be tantamount to suggesting that there is nothing socially harmful in such behaviour and would inevitably have as its consequence that young people would be encouraged to indulge in it, and that society would be corrupted. I believe that this is not an argument which can be lightly dismissed. For every genuine in vert there are many perverted by money or desire for a fresh sensation, or by imitation. I admit that there must be a subjective element in that, but that is my conviction, after much study of the subject and after the consideration of crime as a whole which my years at the Home Office gave to me.

Even if it were thought right to accept the Committee's recommendation in principle—and Her Majesty's Government do not think that—very difficult consequential problems would arise. There would be the problem of definition. What is "in private" for this purpose? What is "consent"? I ask those noble Lords who have commanded formations of men, and who have seen men living in buildings where there are cubicles or the like, to consider the practical difficulty of the first point; and I am suggesting only one or two. On "consent" one can lay down legal definitions but having defined that, one has then to be satisfied in one's own moral judgment about consent on the part of a young man of 21. I have stressed this because I know that it is always easy, when a lawyer makes a difficulty of definition, to say that it is just a legalistic quibble. My Lords, it is not. I believe that it is going to the practical difficulties of life.

The Committee point out: that if the recommendations were accepted problems would arise in relation to the Armed Forces and other Services and establishments where members are under a disciplinary code. Again I ask your Lordships to consider what is envisaged, by those in favour of this proposal, as happening in the disciplined Services. On this point it is essential that we face the difficulties involved, as well as facing—and rightly—the difficulties of those who are affected. Again, I respectfully say that that is an argument which cannot lightly be put on one side. That is why Her Majesty's Government take the position which I have stated and can hold out no hope of legislation on this point. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, asked me about a number of other recommendations. Of course we are prepared to examine these carefully in the light of what is said. Some are purely subsidiary to the main point, but there are others which are not and which I shall be very pleased to examine. Those which I had in mind and of which I have made a note are blackmail, the Prison Medical Service, and psychiatric research and reports, but I am perfectly prepared to consider also whether cases should be brought by the Director, as mentioned by Lord Brabazon of Tara. These are all matters on which debate is very important and to which we shall give full consideration.

Now I come to a point in which I know the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is interested, and on which he has made an appeal to me—the question of research. It seems to me that one of the Committee's most important recommendations is that relating to research. So much has been written and said, and so little is really known about the nature and origins of the condition of homosexuality, that further research is clearly desirable; and I want to assure the noble Lord and your Lordships that Her Majesty's Government will give attentive thought to this recommendation, which has repercussions far beyond the sphere of criminal law.

I turn next to the subject of prostitution, and here there is little doubt that the substance of the Committee's recommendations commend themselves to the majority of public opinion, although there are reservations on certain points which have been raised in this debate. I shall try to deal with some of them, but again I want respectfully to say to the right reverend Prelate that any legislation would be influenced by views expressed here and in another place, and I shall come later to the special point about which he asked—the question of the treatment of prostitution from the point of view of reformation. The main recommendations in this part of the Report are that the requirement to establish individual annoyance should be eliminated from the law relating to street offences and that the penalties for the offences should be substantially increased. In making this recommendation the Committee, recognising that there are spheres of private behaviour where the criminal law cannot appropriately enter, came to the conclusion that: … what the law can and should do is to ensure that the streets of London and our big provincial cities are freed from what is offensive or injurious and made tolerable for the ordinary citizen who lives in or passes through them. My Lords, I submit that that is a reasonable and proper sphere for the operation of the law; and, judging from the number of deputations I received on the state of the London streets when I was Home Secretary, it is an urgent problem and one which we cannot ignore.

I am aware that the Committee's recommendations have been criticised in some respects, both in the Press and by responsible organisations whose opinion must carry much weight. It has been suggested, for example, that even if implementation of the Committee's recommendations were effective in clearing the streets, this would simply "sweep the dirt under the carpet". And the Committee implicitly admit this danger. But the question we have to consider, and which those concerned with government must consider (it does not mean that we have any less respect for the other questions that are outstanding) is this: human nature being what it is, what practicable alternative can be found?

No-one can deny that the presence of prostitutes on the streets on the scale on which we see it to-day is both offensive and injurious. It is offensive to the ordinary citizen's sense of decency, and it is injurious both in providing an example for other girls to follow and also—another very real point; I have had reports on it from all over the world—in presenting a temptation to those who might be less disposed to indulge their appetites if the facilities were less readily available. I am sorry to appear to promulgate that view of human nature, but that is one aspect of human nature of which I have, as I say, been convinced as a result of careful examination; and it is an aspect with which we have to deal. It is not a conceivable proposition that we should be able to abolish prostitution by law. No-one has suggested it, and no society of which I know has succeeded in doing so—and government is the art of the possible. It is therefore incumbent on us to consider what we can achieve within the limits of Governmental action; and since we cannot abolish prostitution, we must concentrate upon those aspects which are most offensive and injurious.

Numerous speakers have made the point, which is an important one, as a criticism of the Committee's recommendations, that it is unjust to impose heavy penalties on the prostitutes while nothing is done to the men who consort with them. It is not easy to see how this criticism could be met without overstepping the proper bounds of the criminal law. I think the criminal law deals with the intolerable minimum of human wrongdoing which takes society as a means to its own ends. I would point out however—and I will willingly examine any extension of these matters—that there are already provisions in the existing law under which proceedings may be taken against men in certain circumstances Of course, when men importune for immoral purposes there is a much more serious penalty; a man who pesters a respectable woman may be proceeded against for conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace; and, of course, if the prostitute and her partner act in public, the man is always prosecuted as well. But, my Lords, other possible improvements to the law we are always ready to consider.

The Committee also recommend that the hands of the law should be strengthened against those who let flats to prostitutes at exorbitant rents, and that there should be provisions to make it easier for the police to trace those taking part hi letting premises used for purposes of prostitution. Here again we have every sympathy towards measures which will act against the covert as well as the overt offender.

My Lords, another difficulty is in regard to the offence of loitering, and there again the Committee have been criticised because the offence of "loitering" for the purposes of prostitution" is not grave enough to justify the penalty of imprisonment. The Committee were satisfied that if the streets are to be effectively cleared imprisonment must be available as a last resort in those cases where the prostitute deliberately flouts the law, as she so often does at the present time. One of the purposes the Committee had in mind in recommending imprisonment was straightforward deterrence, and they hoped that the mere threat of imprisonment in the background would serve to keep prostitutes off the streets. But in those cases where it did not they saw no alternative to imprisonment if this nuisance was to be effectively brought under control.

I have considered the suggestion that the higher fines proposed by the Committee would themselves prove a sufficient deterrent, and that many prostitutes would find themselves unable to pay them, with the result that they would in any event be committed to prison. The difficulty about that argument is that it takes no account of the statutory requirement under the Magistrates Courts Act, 1952, that the court, in fixing a fine, must have regard to the means of the offender. And in any case, it would not be proper to legislate for imprisonment "by a side wind." Either one must take it or one must reject it. Another point which has caused difficulty is the necessity to charge the woman as a "common prostitute" and the difficulties of that are obvious. But there again the Committee, after giving very careful consideration to the arguments, came reluctantly to the conclusion that it would be better to retain the words in the statutory definition of the offence. That is a matter to which we are giving our consideration.

My Lords, I want to make it quite clear, especially after hearing the speech from the right reverend Prelate, that the Government will consider with the greatest care and sympathy those recommendations of the Committee which are designed to dissuade or reclaim the newcomer to the ranks of the prostitutes. Whilst we are mainly concerned, as we must be, with the Legal position, we do not forget—and I hope this will be realized—the human problems which are involved. Any practical steps which can be taken to dissuade young women from taking up this way of life, and, in particular, to increase the opportunity for probation officers to bring their influence to bear at an early stage, deserve our fullest support.

I have mentioned the general position as to brothels and brothel-keepers, whether covert or overt, and the Government are sympathetically disposed in principle to the recommendations of the Committee against the use of premises for the purposes of prostitution. But that again is a point on which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is most anxious to have your Lordships' views. Further (I think this deals with the point which the right reverend Prelate had in mind), on the question of whether it would be practicable to institute researches, on a Government-sponsored basis, into the causes of prostitution, as the Committee recommend there is this difficulty which the right reverend Prelate will appreciate—that is, that one of the prerequisites of scientific research is a supply of case material: and that hitherto has been lacking, as I think he knows. But it may be that if the Committee's recommendations, and in particular those relating to the young prostitutes, are carried out, this deficiency will be supplied and if that proves to be the case we shall certainly be very ready to consider what use can then be made of the information that can be obtained.

On this general question I am conscious, as a member of the Government, that the Government have to deal with the practical problems, and in the past I have myself had to deal with the practical aspects. But I should like to conclude by quoting some words of the Committee, which they applied to prostitution but which seem to me also to apply very largely to the other problem that they considered. I quote paragraph 226, on page 80 of the Report: Prostitution is an evil of which any society which claims to be civilised should seek to rid itself but this end could be achieved only through measures directed to a better understanding of the nature and obligation of sexual relationships and to a raising of the social and moral outlook of society as a whole. In these matters the work of the churches and of organisations concerned with mental health, moral welfare, family welfare, child and marriage guidance, and similar matters should be given all possible encouragement. But until education and the moral sense of the community bring about a change of attitude towards prostitution the law by itself cannot do so. I am not in any sense returning this ball of controversy to the Spiritual Benches in your Lordships' House. I always said, as some of the right reverend Prelates will remember, when I became Home Secretary in the middle of a crime wave, that this is a matter for everyone in the community. The responsibility is universal and indivisible. But it would be wrong in a place like this not to reinforce again the need for a constant effort to improve our moral standards and get back some of those that we have lost. I think your Lordships will not object to my saying that. The words which I have just quoted from the Committee's Report are, I think, very wise words by the Committee, and they are words that all of us who have the welfare of the community at heart should remember. I am sure that in the sphere of the education of the community this Report will be a great landmark.

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, as the first Back-Bencher to address your Lordships' House since the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans made his maiden speech, I think it is right that I also should take the opportunity of congratulating him upon a most interesting and able contribution to the debate, and to express the hope—which I know your Lordships all share—that we shall hear him many times again. I should also like to thank the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack for his kind references to myself. Since this Report was published I have come to sympathise very much with the feelings of the artist when his latest work is exhibited to a critical public. In this case the work has taken over three years to hammer out. That, I am afraid, has made my feelings towards the Report even more protective than they might otherwise have been. But I intend to-night not to elaborate unduly upon the Report, because I feel that from the point of view of the Committee—and I speak at the moment as a member of the Committee—it must now stand or fall on its own merits. Therefore, anything I say will be directed more to the reactions which the Report has aroused since its publication and my own personal feelings about it.

It seems to me that the arguments on which the Committee's recommendations are based come from two distinctly different levels concerning the functions of the law. The first is that of the more general functioning of the law on what I might call the moral level. Here, I think, such matters as the distinction between liberty and licence, the concept of individual freedom under the law, and the value, of the law as a deterrent, find their place. The other, more practical, level is concerned, among other things, I believe, with the preservation of public decency and security and, indeed, the general administration of the law. I think that most of the hostile reaction to the Committee's proposals on the homosexual side has been directed against this more general conception of the legal function. Therefore, I should like to make a few comments on this and one or two other reactions which the Report has aroused.

Perhaps the most widspread and important first impression that the public has derived from the Report—and I think it is one which inevitably has been emphasised by Press comment—is that the Report has in some way favoured the homosexual and penalised the prostitute, and the conclusion has then been drawn in some quarters that the Committee find that prostitution is more anti-social, more unhealthy and more damaging than homosexuality. A further implication has been drawn by some people that the Committee, because it did not specifically condemn homosexuality, has therefore undermined important moral values which the nation should preserve and upon which our laws are fortunately based, and that by so doing we have recommended that a most valuable restraining influence should be removed. It is often argued that homosexual behaviour should be treated differently, as it is a graver moral offence. I entirely agree that it is a graver moral offence, in that it offends more radically the law of nature ordained by God, but I am not convinced for that reason that the criminal law can be based on a precise grading of moral or ethical failings.

In any case, I think that to argue in that way is to forget the purpose for which the Committee was set up. In his excellent speech the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, recited the terms of reference of the Committee, and, if I may, I will repeat them briefly. They were to consider the law and practice relating to homosexual offences and the treatment of convicted offenders, and also the law and practice relating to offences against the criminal law in connection with prostitution and solicitation for immoral purposes. In short, the Committee was not set up to pronounce a moral judgment on homosexuality and prostitution, but to consider how these things stand vis-à-vis the law. I say that, not because I believe that anyone in your Lordships" House doubts that, but because I believe that the feeling has got around the country that that was not the case.

Although I cannot presume to speak categorically for my colleagues, I am sure we all determined to produce as best we could an unbiased and objective statement of the facts and of opinion founded on these facts. It is true that the recommendation in paragraph 62, that homosexual behaviour between adult males in private (I apologise for the phrase) should no longer be a criminal offence, does, in the words of the Report: suggest to the average citizen a degree of toleration by the Legislature. But toleration is not the same thing as condonation, and it is surely also true, if I may quote the preceding paragraph (61) that: to emphasise the personal and private nature of immoral conduct is to emphasise the personal and private responsibility of the individual for his own actions, and that is a responsibility which a mature agent can properly be expected to carry for himself, without the threat of punishment by law. This problem, I believe, is equally difficult in cases of adultery and lesbianism. Surely these activities must be no less damaging to the health of society than homosexual behaviour, but they are not subject to the deterrent effect of the law. I imagine that the practical reason for that is that it just would not work. The ideal of personal responsibility is a fine one, yet, as the most reverend Primate has said, it is a true but sad fact that this sense of personal and private responsibility has been declining in the country over the past number of years, and many people now believe that what the criminal law does not condemn, the moral law also tolerates. Certainly, in so far as this attitude of mind is true, it is a serious reason for approaching the recommendation of paragraph 62 with great care. On the other hand, I believe that the vigorous public reaction against this recommendation is encouraging evidence of the instinctive sense of right values in the British public. I will go further than that and say that I believe that if a change in the law is clearly and logically put before the British public, they will see that as a just and not a weaker law and will not take it to mean a new attitude to the vice itself.

I am no lawyer and I speak with great diffidence in the presence of so many distinguished members of that profession, but, as a layman, I hope that I am right in thinking that the law exists to protect the public's interests, and to preserve decency and order and in general the moral climate of the country. If I thought for a moment that our major recommendation about homosexuality clashed with this view of the law's function, I should not have supported it. Having considered this matter over three years, the Committee, with one exception, came to the conclusion that individual sexual relationships (and I include heterosexual as well as homosexual), when both parties are in agreement and both are over twenty-one, however unpleasant, however vicious and however wrong, are matters of personal responsibility, and that in this case the individual's freedom should come first, even at the risk, which I think can be exaggerated and has not yet been proved, of some increase in homosexual practices. In my view, that is the general case for a change in the law.

On the more practical and immediate level, there are less controversial but no less important factors. I believe that at present the law in this matter can operate only intermittently. For instance, there areoften insuperable difficulties in obtaining necessary evidence of private homosexual behaviour. Investigations are very much dependent, therefore, on the character and ability of individual police officers, and the surrounding circumstances. I do not think that this situation is satisfactory, or that it brings any great credit to the Legislature, but, as things are at the moment, I believe that it is unavoidable. As the Report emphasises, it is important to bear in mind the distinction between the condition of homosexuality and its being practised. Obviously, any physical or mental weakness is to be pitied. In many cases the problems of the homosexual are tragic ones, and anyone who, by force of will and integrity, overcomes such problems is deserving of the greatest respect and admiration. That is why I fully support the recommendations which emphasise the adult male's personal responsibility for his own private homosexual behaviour, as he is responsible for his heterosexual behaviour. I would say here, in parenthesis, that I can assure the noble and learned Viscount that the Committee did take into account all the difficulties that he has raised about consent and the definition of "in private". They appreciated that there were grave difficulties about these, but felt that they were not insuperable.

At the same time, it is increasingly necessary to shield and protect the young people of our country, even more than they are at present, from the dangers of this degenerating vice. Your Lordships will see that for offences against minors the Committee recommend no reduction whatever in penalties. Indeed, in one case they have recommended a stiffer penalty. We have also emphasised recommendations which aim at helping to alleviate the condition by more research into its causes and treatment. For instance, it is plain that a great deal is needed at the present time in the field of medicine. Therefore I urge upon the Government that, despite the controversy which our main recommendation has aroused, they will not allow all the other recommendations to slip by unnoticed. I might mention two or three in passing, some of which have already been discussed.

There is, for example, recommendation No. (xiii), which concerns the prosecution of what we call "stale offences". I think that this recommendation could easily be adopted, and, if it were, valuable police time, which is very precious at the moment, could be saved and could be used more constructively in other fields. Recommendation (xv) deals with the Prison Medical Service, and your Lordships have already heard about that. I feel that it is important that a more constructive attitude should be taken in regard to the homosexual offender in prison, because he is often what is called the pædophiliac—the homosexual who prefers young people. Such attention can often be useful, and I think it is important that the Prison Medical Service should be augmented and adequately remunerated. As we have learned lately, there is apparently likely to be an over-sufficiency of doctors before long, so that perhaps the problem will not be so difficult. I do not think I will say any more about the other recommendations that we have put forward, some of which deal with legal technicalities, but I know the Government will consider them.

I should, however, like to say just a few words on the part of the Report dealing with prostitution, and particularly soliciting, as practised in public, both by males and females. In many ways, I think this presents a more urgent problem than that of homosexuality as practised in private. For here public decency is immediately and obviously involved. The recommendations of the Committee have, to a large degree, been guided by what appeared to us to be the essential and urgent aim—namely, to make the streets of London and other large cities and towns places where decent people could walk unmolested and unoffended. We must all know that certain areas of London are becoming a disgrace and a scandal, and foreign visitors are appalled by what they see. As the law stands at present, no one is seriously to blame for this. The police and the courts are hampered by the inadequacy of the fines, and, in England and Wales, the need to prove annoyance; and the prostitute, not unnaturally, takes full advantage of the situation.

Much of the criticism of our recommendations on prostitution has centred on the proposal, embodied in the suggested increase in penalties, to impose imprisonment for a third offence. It may well seem to be excessive to imprison anyone for soliciting when the purpose or aim behind the soliciting is not itself a criminal offence. But, my Lords, if we are seriously going to try to clean up the streets, I think it is essential that the ultimate penalty of imprisonment, however infrequently invoked, must be at the disposal of the courts. I believe this for two reasons. In the first place, it would greatly discourage young girls from apprenticing themselves to this particular trade. The threat of prison has an unpleasantly severe ring about it, whereas tines can, and do, seem almost a licence fee. I feel that the whole question of prostitution can well be tackled by frightening off the young girl before she becomes too deeply involved in this way of life. I should hope 'that this view would have the support of social workers in this field, who might agree that an ultimate threat might be a salutary antidote to the temptations of easy money.

Secondly—and this tackles the problem from the other end, so to speak—as has been already mentioned, there are, a few, though possibly not many, "old hands" on the streets: the tough hard-headed prostitutes for whom fines mean little sacrifice financially, and in whose case only enforced detention would achieve their removal. In addition, I think the more formal system of cautioning before proceedings are taken, which is the subject of Recommendation (xxi), would give the girls a chance to think again before risking coming on to the streets. Such a system seems to have been quite successful in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and I feel that it could well be extended to England as well. It means a little more work for the police, but I believe that it is a great thing in pulling the girls up short before they really get started. I imagine that some of the success in Glasgow and Edinburgh can also be attributed to the fact that the need to prove annoyance is not required in Scotland, and I should hope that that example could be followed in England and Wales.

I realise that what I have been saying will not commend itself to some of the women's organisations. They have naturally sprung to the defence of their own sex—and they have received great support in your Lordships' House this afternoon—by maintaining that it is the prostitutes' clients who should be equally punished. I think there are strong arguments for that, but I cannot see that the Committee's recommendations are unreasonable, given that the aim, which I think is urgent and essential, is the removal of prostitutes from the streets. For it is this which I believe is primarily disturbing to the public conscience at the moment.

Nor do I share the forebodings of some people who say that to drive prostitution underground will result in more difficulties for the police in the detection of crime generally. This does not seem to have been borne out by conditions in other capital cities. For example, in New York, where I was for some time last winter, one never sees a prostitute on the streets; and, so far as I know, there is no legalised prostitution. Yet, so far as my observation went, neither of those facts caused any anxiety to the police. In any case, I am convinced that the first and vital step in any reduction of the amount of prostitution is to remove it from the streets. For one thing, the morals of the passers-by will not be offended any longer; and for another, as the Lord Chancellor has already said, the casual client will tend to disappear.

It is getting late and I do not wish to delay your Lordships too long. Therefore I will not say anything about the other recommendations of the Committee on the subject of prostitution. I would say, however, how glad I was to hear from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that they were being sympathe-tically considered. To sum up, the members of the Wolfenden Committee knew well that some of their recommendations would be violently controversial. I myself am glad that they are. for I believe that they are of sufficient importance to warrant debating and arguing at length by the nation at large, and only feeling such as that can produce a positive and concrete result. They do raise genuine and fundamental issues, concerning the law, its functions and the concept of individual liberty. I would, if it is not impertinent, say to those who are our critics: "When you consider our recommendations, try not to let prejudice or emotion put justice out of focus." We are a democratic country, and democracy seeks individual freedom within the framework of moral principles. This, I believe, our Report also sought to secure. I think I can safely say that, when we embarked on our inquiry some three years ago, or more, many of my colleagues, and certainly myself, held very ill-informed views on these unpleasant subjects. But one thing has become plain to me, and that is that in a free country the control of sexual appetites is, for the average adult, a personal and not a public challenge. This is the thread that runs through the Report, and I hope that it may commend itself to Her Majesty's Government.

5.50 p.m.


My Lords, though I differ greatly from almost everything the noble Marquess has just said, I should like to congratulate him, if he will allow me to do so without appearing to be patronising, on a very frank and courageous speech, the kind of speech which I think always commends itself to your Lordships' House. One of the few advantages of being, as I hope, only temporarily deprived of my reading vision, is that instead of making a set speech from notes one can answer to the best of one's ability the points made in debate by previous speakers in your Lordships' House with whom one is in disagreement. And, with the exception of the Lord Chancellor, I find myself in disagreement with almost every speaker that we have heard this afternoon. I should like to say, in parenthesis, that I greatly welcome the Lord Chancellor's speech.

My only excuse for troubling your Lordships is that I, with the aid and support of the late Lord Vansittart, introduced a debate on the very unpleasant subject—"nauseating subject" the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has reminded me was the phrase that I used—of homosexualism in, I think, the year 1954. A number of your Lordships, some of them very good friends of my noble friend and myself, tried to dissuade us on many grounds from raising this subject, but we persisted in our endeavour, and I think the results were justified. We did so largely because—if I may use a term which I do not think is offensive, and is a common term, and, I believe, used by these people themselves—the "pansies" had a sort of propaganda on their behalf going on in a number of weekly journals. This propaganda arose after two cases to which I will not refer, but your Lordships will know what I mean, and which attracted a good deal of attention.

One result, at any rate, of the debate in your Lordships' House was that the "propansy" Press was much less active on the subject than it had been before. I think it was partly, perhaps, as a result of the debate and this interest in the Press that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, then Home Secretary, got the Government to appoint the Committee. In the course of that debate—and I apologise for again referring to the action that Lord Vansittart and myself took—we both indicated that we personally would be largely influenced by any recommendations that any such Committee (which had not then been appointed) might put forward. We said that we did not necessarily object to an alteration in the law, but we gave the reasons why we thought it inadvisable.

Now the Committee have reported. At first I was inclined, in view of the eminence of the membership of the Committee, to accept its recommendations on the subject of homosexualism. But now I have altered my mind, for four reasons. One is the extraordinarily weak defence of the recommendations of his Committee put forward by Sir John Wolfenden in a broadcast interview. I have never had the pleasure of meeting this very eminent citizen, but I know him to be a man of great ability, integrity and erudition. When he could not put up a better case when interviewed over the wireless upon the recommendations of his Committee, I thought there must be something wrong, and I still think so. Secondly, any Committee which included a person with such irresponsibility as Mrs. Lovibond, who made a disgraceful and unjustified attack upon the nursing profession—an attack which has been proved to be completely without foundation—must shake one's faith in the membership of the Committee.

Thirdly, I have information given me by a medical acquaintance of mine. I am not his patient, and your Lordships will appreciate that, for professional reasons, I cannot give his name because it might get him into trouble. He has given me some interesting information on the subject of how the medical evidence in regard to homosexualism was, so to speak, weighted in favour of the psychiatrists. He said that an undue proportion of the medical witnesses were psychiatrists, and there was a very small element among the witnesses of those who would be supposed to be people whose views should be heard On this subject—that is, schoolmasters, leaders of scout troops, boys' clubs and the like—because of the possible effect of the recommendation on those under their care. The last reason why I cannot accept the Committee's Report is because of the brilliant defence of his Minority Report by a gentleman named Mr. Adair, a very distinguished man, a former Procurator Fiscal. In utter contradistinction to Sir John Wolfenden, Mr. Adair gave his reasons clearly and succinctly and, as I think, they were overwhelming.

I do not wish to detain your Lordships long at this period of the evening, and I think, if I may say so with the deepest respect, the Lord Chancellor has put his "hydrogen bomb" on the recommendations of the Committee as regards homosexualism. I can only pour in a few rifle shots. But I should like to deal with three points which are very prominent in this controversy. The first point is the argument, "Poor people, they cannot help it." Now there seems to me to be a dangerous tendency in this country at the present time to suggest that no criminal can really help what he is doing. When a vicious young man nearly batters an old woman to death and steals the money from the till, some people are inclined to say. "He cannot help it. His mummy was not nice to him when he was young. His father was unkind to him. He had a bad home environment." That may be true, and one is sorry for people in that position. Bu: that is not a reason for not putting the law into operation, because the public must be protected against acts of violence.

The same sort of argument is, of course, applied in the case of homosexuals. It is no doubt true that some homosexuals, but not all, are so constituted by nature that they cannot help being homosexual. But is that a reason for altering the law and making it easier for them? If you apply that principle logically, then you must also apply it to other forms of mania. What, for example, about the kleptomaniacs? Probably others of your Lordships, like myself, know most sad instances of women in good positions, happily married, with plenty of money, who just cannot help stealing things when they go into a store. I know one or two very sad cases. They are put on probation, fined and sent to prison, and then they again commit an offence. If the homosexuals cannot help what they are doing, it would seem that we should apply the same principle to kleptomaniacs. Also, what about those people with a totally different mentality—women who, I think, are called nymphomaniacs? If they cannot help going after men, then any prostitute who can prove she is a nymphomaniac ought not to be prosecuted, according to the arguments used in respect to homosexuals.

Where we can all be in agreement, I think, is this: that for all homosexual offences there should be some sort of different prison treatment than that which exists at the present time. I do not believe it is any use sending these people to an ordinary prison where they spread contamination. I believe there should be some form of preventive detention system, or whatever one likes to call it, where these people could receive proper medical treatment. If I may say so. I entirely agree with the noble Marquess who preceded me that that is a matter which should occupy the attention of the Government, and that there should be as many doctors trained in this particular work as possible.

Now we come to a point which seems to me to blow sky high the arguments which have been almost universal in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, realised how he gave away his own case. He mentioned the number of people who had been sent to prison for homosexual offences. He showed that a tiny proportion of those who had been sent to prison were consenting adults. That is to say, if the law were altered it would affect only a tiny proportion of those at present sent to prison. The others would be sent to prison just as they are to-day; they would be shut up just as they are to-day. Now that seems to me to blow the whole contention sky high. For the sake of not sending to prison a tiny proportion of those who go to prison for homosexual offences you are going to make an alteration in the law which may have grave effects upon the morality of the country, as I shall try to prove in a moment.

The second point that is brought forward—it has not been mentioned much in this debate but it has been mentioned in the controversy very widely—is the amount of blackmail which homosexualism is responsible for, or the present state of the law is responsible for. But I would ask this question: would it be much reduced by making the act of homosexualism in private no longer an offence? I am glad to think that in this country there is great feeling by the majority against homosexualism. If a young man, a consenting adult, was known to have relations with an older man, whatever the position of that older man was, whether he was a working man, in business, an executive, whatever you like, the young man could threaten that unless the older man gave him money he would denounce him to those with whom he worked. It seems to me that you would get the blackmail in just the same way. The Lord Chancellor went into the very important question of how you are going to define what is an act of homosexuality between adults in private. There is nothing in the Report to show that that question has been studied at all.

The last point which is constantly made in connection with this controversy is that it is quite unfair that you should punish this particular form of homosexuality between adults, done in private, when you do not punish lesbianism and you do not punish adultery. I will come back to the question of adultery in a moment. I agree that there is a certain illogicality in regard to lesbianism; but what about the case, which was put forward by Mr. Adair, of incest? Mr. Adair said in effect in his broadcast interview: If my colleagues are right in saying that homosexuality carried out in private should not be treated as a crime, why should incest be treated as a crime? I think he went on to say "unless it results in the birth of children".

Assuming the law was altered, you might have this curious situation arise in any town you like. There might be an elderly widower who was devoted to his wife and also devoted to his daughter who is a widow, and those two, when bath are bereft of their spouses', decide to share the same house. They had always been a most devoted couple. In a moment of emotional stress they commit an act of incest. The matter becomes known to the police and they are prosecuted. In the same town—and I am assuming the law has been altered—lives one of those horrible old men of which you see samples in certain parts of Southern Europe, who are not ashamed to confess they are homosexuals, and they have a young boy as a homosexual paramour. This man lives with his boy paramour in the house, boldly refers to him as his wife, makes him look like a woman with painted cheeks and wear clothes as much resembling a woman as possible, and is not the least afraid of public opinion.

The people of the town are incensed about the effect this may have upon the morals of their children, and they have recently read of the other case, the case of incest to which I have referred. They go to see the police superintendent with a petition asking that something should be done to stop this outrageous conduct. He says, "I am very sorry; I can do nothing. Before the law was altered I could have done something. I could have warned this man that the police had their eye on him and sooner or later they would get evidence and would convict him, but the law has been altered. I am a police officer; I am not a politician; I must not criticise what Parliament does. I understand that the Church was in favour of the alteration—the Church Assembly was in favour of it. There was a great weight of religious opinion. I am afraid, ladies and gentlemen, I can do nothing. This man will continue to be a scandal in the town." If I may say so without impertinence, I would ask anyone who is going to follow me in the debate and who supports this particular proposal to consider that point, consider the scandal that might be caused if there is this alteration in the law.

Lastly, I come to a very delicate and difficult point, because I am a layman and a communicant of the Church of England and take a considerable part in the diocesan work in the diocese in which I live. I know that the most reverend Primate and the other members of the Episcopal Bench present will not be offended if I say that I personally am deeply disturbed at the attitude that the Council of Moral Welfare, the Church Assembly and the most reverend Primate have taken in this matter of the relative iniquity of homosexualism and illicit sexual intercourse. I go a long way with the most reverend Primate, perhaps the whole way, in condemning illicit sexual intercourse, natural sexual intercourse. I think he said in a statement he made to the Church Assembly that there was far too much tolerance of adultery in this country. When I was a young man and moved in what is snobbishly termed county society, a man who had broken up his own home and left his wife and gone off with another man's wife would not be received; he would not be asked to meals and so on; he would be boycotted. Today it is a matter of course.

I agree with the most reverend Primate, and I was glad that he, with typical courage, condemned this attitude of mind. But when he and the Church Assembly and the Council of,.Moral Welfare of the Church of England adopt the attitude that more harm can be done to the community by normal sexual intercourse outside of marriage than by homosexualism, I cannot agree with him. I am astonished that that argument should be used, because I should have thought that anyone with the great erudition and knowledge of the most reverend Primate would have realised that one of the causes of the downfall of many ancient civilisations was the prevalence of homosexualism and its tolerance, with most damaging moral and physical effects upon the population.

The concern which I feel is by no means lessened by a most astonishing statement which appeared in a Sunday newspaper about ten days ago and has never been contradicted, and which I presume is true. It appears that the rector of an East End parish, in the year 1951, was convicted of what I regard as the horrible offence of soliciting—I think it is called "male importuning"—and according to this Sunday newspaper he continued to be the rector of this parish. To me there is something terrible in the thought that a man convicted of this offence should be giving Communion to communicants. Incidentally, by virtue of his office he was a governor of a school. He has now been convicted a second time and has resigned, but I feel that some explanation is due.


My Lords, it is very difficult when a particular case is suddenly cited like this. I would only say that when the previous conviction took place he was not rector of his present parish at all, and neither the Bishop of London nor I had any knowledge of the previous conviction.


My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate. That disposes of the matter. It also relieves my mind of a certain amount of perturbation which I felt when I read this Report. In conclusion, I want to say that I appreciate the strength of opinion that there is in some quarters (and some most humane quarters, using the word in its proper sense) on this question of homosexualism; and I believe that some of the recommendations, such as that relating to treatment, should be put into operation. In regard to another matter about which I do not wish to trouble your Lordships, the question of prostitution, I believe that Her Majesty's Government will have to be a little careful as to how they carry out amendments in the law; and I think that that is realised. It would be easy to pass a law which, however unpleasant and disgraceful a vice prostitution is, would be unjust and contrary to the English conception of justice; and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will proceed with great caution.

There are one or two other matters which I feel should be referred to in this connection before I sit down. It is a profound mistake to suppose, as did some misguided people who gave: evidence, that, quite apart from the moral horrors of licensed houses, licensed houses take women permanently off the streets. Anyone who went into the night-life quarter of Montmartre before the 1914 war at a time when Paris was full of licensed houses would agree with me that anyone wanting to go to a theatre or restaurant there was pestered by prostitutes the whole time. A second point which should be made is that there is, I think, some exaggeration in the statement that the streets of London are worse to-day than they were forty years ago. I believe that in regard to the number of prostitutes the streets of London were in many respects worse in the 1900s, and certainly worse at an earlier period, as was shown by the very valuable book on the subject published by a man named Mayhew.

The third point is that I am very doubtful whether it is true that London has a unique reputation for horror in the number of prostitutes that can be found in the streets. One noble Lord, I believe it was my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, pointed out that in Paris it was impossible to walk even in places like the Champs-Elysées without being pestered every few yards by prostitutes. I hope that we shall not, in a kind of masochistic mood, say that we in this country are much worse in that regard than we have been in the past. I apologise to your Lordships for the length of my remarks and would end by saying this. Here are great questions of moral good or evil. We must all make up our minds which course is best in the interests not so much of the individual but of the whole nation. However much we may differ from them, I feel that we can differ with a feeling of respect for the views of our opponents.


My Lords, I very much welcomed the last remark, in view of the earlier references to the Church Assembly and others. While, clearly, we differ from the noble Earl on these points, he regards us still with respect.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the most reverend Primate.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships have already heard this afternoon, or will have gathered from papers, that not only the Church of England but the churches are evenly and strongly divided on this question of how far the admittedly moral offence of homosexuality is to be regarded also as a crime. I feel that your Lordships, who have heard the other side, ought to know why there are so many of us in the Church who cannot agree with the second recommendation, that natural vice—heterosexual vice—and unnatural vice—homosexual vice—are to be equated together as equally heinous.

In saying that, I would pay tribute to the great work of this Committee, whose Report has certainly clarified issues and brought them into the open. I would also fully endorse what has been brought out this afternoon, that there is an immense difference between homosexuality, the preference of certain people for members of their own sex, and homosexual practice. The former, of course, is not even a sin or a crime: and in the past there have been many great and good people who have turned what many would have considered a limitation or liability into an asset, and have served their generation grandly. But that is very different from homosexual practice, and the very horror of the names which are attached to homosexual offences shows the horror of those offences. To my mind, homosexual practitioners are not to be regarded with any kind of sentimentality whatsoever.

I would emphasise that we cannot be too grateful to the most reverend Primate for pointing out that heterosexual vice—fornication and adultery—are also social crimes. But having said that, I would try to make the point that the living organism of society, like human nature itself, is far too complex to lend itself to any such clear-cut distinction between private sin and public crime. The distinction has been worrying sociologists for a hundred years, ever since Mill, in 1859, in his great Essay on Liberty, wrote: The individual is not accountable to society for his actions, in so far as these concern the interest of no person but himself. But even Mill was not blind to the fallacy that there is nothing one does in private, not even what one thinks or reads, but has its public effect; for it is our private conduct and behaviour which make us, which develop character, and so make us either a baneful or a healthful influence among our fellows.

There is no more baneful or contagious an influence in the world than that which emanates from homosexual practice. It makes a life of leprosy. The most reverend Primate was quite right: there are such things as sodomy clubs. There was one in Oxford between the wars, and I am informed that there was another in Cambridge which even shamelessly sported a tie. And these clubs are plague-spots wherever they exist. They draw in those who would otherwise be immune and turn them themselves into corrupters of their fellows. I cannot believe, with the most reverend Primate, that the best way of getting rid of these clubs is to indulge them and allow them to exist. We have had the examples which the most reverend Primate gave—those haunting examples—of how men were sucked in and held on to, as it were, by an octopus of corruption. That made me favour the idea that here the State ought to come in and help those men in every way possible and fight: those who would encircle them with their corrupting chains.

As the most reverend Primate reminded us, and as the Report also observes, it is generally realised now that there is a homosexual component in the make-up of everyone. Although the Committee were not in a position to confirm that, yet your Lordships will remember that they drew attention to the fact that there were great numbers of people whom they described as being "latent homosexuals". A latent homosexual can exist all his life with that latency dormant and his homosexual tendency unrealised. But it can be brought out; it can be set on fire, and it can be developed by some unfortunate experience in adolescence, by gratifying curiosity, by harkening to evil suggestion or by the motive of gain or favour, and the rest. I myself sometimes liken that position to that of drug addiction. It can be manufactured. The Lord Chancellor was quite right when he said that homosexuals can be made—they are not only born. There are far more manufactured than most people have any conception of, and they need protection. Protection is needed here, and homosexuals should be kept on a leash to prevent them from practising homosexual vice.

May I draw attention to one point? Just as female prostitutes are liable to prosecution under the law at the present time, so a male visiting public lavatories or "kerb crawling" in order to pick up a consenting partner is also liable at present to prosecution. If your Lordships had known the problem we had in Chatham during the war, when men came down in great numbers to sleuth young naval ratings, you would know that we have a responsibility to protect people from this kind of corrupting menace.

My Lords, may I therefore conclude by expressing the belief that the emotion and moral indignation and horror which are aroused in the human heart by the thought and contemplation of unnatural vice, and which find expression in the Holy Scriptures, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, are probably more right in teaching us our attitude towards unnatural vice than academic discussion divorced from reality. The Report, I am glad to see, sets out that those who practise homosexual offences are not to be considered as medical cases, unable to help themselves. On the contrary, it says that homosexual impulses, equally with heterosexual impulses, can be controlled. But do we sufficiently realise the temptation which besets those with homosexual propensities, in that they are living, moving, and being quite intimately among members of their own sex and, therefore, need help and a strong deterrent to save them from themselves? Therefore with regard to any minor adjustments in the law, I feel that half the people in the Church would not have the general lines of the law altered, not only for the sake of homosexuals themselves but also for the sake of protecting other people from their predatory soliciting and to protect men from being made into homosexual addicts and then let loose on the world with their predatory corruption.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in congratulating the authors of this Report—an extremely clearly written document. It is a great relief to have a Report which is so easy to read, so easy to understand, and in which the facts are set out with such extreme clarity. I should like shortly to deal first with the second part of the Report, that dealing with prostitution, because I think that intrinsically that is much the most difficult problem we have to face. Part Two deals with this subject, and the principle underlying this Report, on which the authors of the Report have based all their findings, is that the law should not interfere with the private habits of people unless those habits are offensive or injurious to other people or they prejudice public order or decency. I think that that is a very sound principle on which this most wise Report is based.

It has been pointed out that prostitution has been with us from early times. The Report suggests, in paragraph 225, that it cannot be stamped out by the criminal law. The ideal which we should all like to see is of happy marriages and men getting their sexual satisfaction in them; but unfortunately, as we all know, there are thousands of men who are not in that happy position; soldiers billeted away from their families, sailors on leave after long voyages, travelling salesmen, men whose marriages have broken down and men who cannot get women to marry them. In many cases the sexual urge is so great that these men are driven to the services of prostitutes. Where men have these urges and money to offer, women will undoubtedly be found to satisfy their demands—at least, that is, I think, the tenor of the Report, with which it is difficult to disagree.

When I was young I was brought up with the idea—which perhaps many of your Lordships may have had also—that many of the recruits for this unfortunate profession were drawn from among unfortunate girls from factories who had lost their jobs, the result, one might say, of sweated labour, or had been turned out of their homes or places of work and were driven through hunger and other causes to make a living on the streets. But it seems, from this Report and other researches which have been carried out recently, that that is not so at all. The picture is quite untrue. These women go into the profession because, in the first place, they want to earn better money, and in the second they feel attracted to a life which enables them to get up when they like and to live in a casual manner. Strangely enough, they also feel themselves to be outcasts and that in joining this corps of women they somehow are joining a class which recognises them, a class in which they have a definite position.

It is urged in the Report—and I think wisely—that it would be very unwise to drive this movement underground. The only movement of this kind which I personally have seen driven underground was in the United States of America, when the Government brought in Prohibition. That was done in a moment of great idealism. They thought that they would stop everyone from drinking, but the result was that the most terrible things happened. Illegal "speakeasies" sprang up all over the towns, bootleggers came into existence, gangsters occupied various territories and battles were fought out between rival groups. The whole of the traffic in illegal liquor became organised, and there was corruption of the police and other most lamentable consequences. The net result was that practically everyone drank probably three times more liquor than before the prohibition era.

Very often it is unwise to try to suppress matters of this kind. It is often found that driving the evil out of sight gives rise to many greater abuses which were not prevalent before. However, the Report takes the view that what we wish to do is to drive these women off the streets. It is true that as we walk about the streets in certain areas of London to-day we see innumerable women soliciting and trying to get clients for their trade. That is most offensive to some people wandering about. What the Report does not mention—and what I imagine must have been at the back of the minds of the Committee—is that this is very bad for our tourist trade, which is becoming more valuable every day. So the Committee's idea is to try to get rid of this traffic from the streets of London.

Several speakers in the debate to-day have raised this question: if you are going to try to move these women from -the streets, would it not be wise—at any rate, would it not be more equitable—to try to penalise the clients, the men? I think there is a difference between the women who continually cause a nuisance by plying their trade and otherwise respectable men who perhaps are drunk after a dinner and go with these women. If a man in such a case were brought up in a police court he would be disgraced almost for ever. The penalty would certainly exceed the gravity of the offence. That is probably the answer to the question why the Report did not suggest stronger measures against men.

If it is the object of the Report to try to clear the streets of these women, then I think it is logically sound, and it is difficult to disagree with the Committee's arguments. It is after that, to my mind, that the Report goes completely wrong. The Committee wish to add to the fines and they suggest that after a certain number of convictions the prostitute should be liable to a sentence of imprisonment. To my mind that would be a most retrograde step. Our prisons are already vastly overcrowded. In many instances, as we know, three men still sleep in a cell. In my view, sending these women to prison would result in making them hardened criminals. It would turn them into real criminals. It is a curious thing that apparently the prostitute is rarely a criminal in the ordinary sense of that word. She consorts sometimes with the criminal classes, but the actual statistics indicate that as a rule she does not indulge in criminal practices otherwise than that of soliciting, except in rare instances. So if you not only fine her but also send her to prison, you will, I think, be likely to turn her into a much more hardened bad character, and the chance of reforming her will be much diminished.

Again, where I differ from the Report is that I think that the Committee have not thought out the results. Prostitution is like a flood of water coming down; you can divert it, but you cannot abolish it. If, as the Committee say, it is unwise to drive this movement underground, and you are going to try to clear your streets, you must allow some other channel in which this movement can operate. Either you must try to suppress it, drive it underground, leave it as it is, or allow some other channel by which these women can ply their trade. That is the position which the Report does not face.

It tackles the question of licensed brothels but it disagrees with the desirability of establishing such places for three reasons. First, it is suggested that licensed houses would encourage men to go more with prostitutes. This I doubt. I should have thought that the men who went to licensed houses would be the sort who were determined to go with these women, whereas the unthinking in these matters are much more likely to be led astray by meeting a prostitute in the street. Then the Committee state that this system might restart the white slave traffic. I doubt that also. I should have thought that at this hour in our history and in the present economic conditions it is very unlikely that that traffic would start up again. I imagine that the Committee's real reason for opposing the licensed house is the fact that in this country when there is something which we do not like we would much rather allow it but not recognise the evil. We think that makes matters all right. I think that is the basis upon which they really reject that alternative.

What alternative is then left'? I should have thought that the only course would be to allow these women to frequent certain restaurants, cafés and public houses. That is a realistic approach and would solve the problem. The women would not clutter up the streets and offend people. Obviously such restaurants and public houses would become well known and men who wished to find women would go there. No respectable person would need to approach these places. But it seems to me that you would also have to give some of the facilities for the "call-girl system"—that is, a system by which girls are rung up from some central flat and meet their men there.

That would mean altering the definition of the word brothel in the eyes of the law. As I understand it from reading the Report, if a woman uses her room or apartment for immoral purposes she cannot be prosecuted—I may be wrong and I shall be glad to be put right if I am. On the other hand, if two or several more girls use the premises, whether they share it or whether they hire it or rent it, then they become subject to prosecution. It seems to me that if you are going to drive these women off the streets you must allow certain mitigations for them; there must be some mitigation of the law in regard to the bars and restaurants and in regard to the premises at which they ply their trade. I am not certain what the effect of this would be; it might: perhaps be wiser to leave the problem in this respect more or less where it is.

I should like to end my remarks on this part of the Report by saying that I am sure that the basis of the real answer—and this has been stressed by many speakers, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—is that the proper way of tackling this problem is to look first at the home life of the woman. What is it that drives them to this barren, precarious existence? What is it that drives these men to finding their unrewarding satisfaction with these women?

I should like to refer briefly to the first part of the Report, which I think discusses a much easier problem, but it is so clouded by emotional feelings and prejudices that it is difficult to keep a balanced and clear approach. From the Report and from general information, there is no doubt that there is a large number of homosexual men both in this country and in other countries—that is, men who feel an affection for their own sex. It is difficult to know what is the number. Where homosexuality is illegal, obviously no-one is going to admit homosexuality, but, judging from researches that have been made, we know that in Germany some years ago it is estimated that of a population of 60 million, 1½ million were exclusively homosexual. A recent survey in Sweden put the number much lower, at 1 per cent. exclusively homosexual and about 4 per cent, with strong homosexual tendencies. I suppose that the most important analysis was by the Kinsey Report in the United States, which was carried out with the use of code numbers so that secrecy was kept more completely than in any other research. The result was that it was found that 4 per cent. out of a very big sample were exclusively homosexual and 37 per cent. of adult males between 16 and 65 had some sort of homosexual experience. What it is in this country no-one has yet tried to find out, but estimates have been made; I have heard that there are between half-a-million and 1 million of exclusive homosexuals, and, of course, a much larger number with homosexual tendencies. But until some survey has been made we cannot know.

The interesting part of the evidence is that all sorts of classes are included; it is not confined to intellectuals or labourers or certain professions, it goes right through society. It includes stupid people who are almost mental defectives and the most brilliant men of genius. I think we must confess that the cause is unknown. I have been told that interesting researches are being made into the physical causes, which are believed to have something to do with the ratio of male and female hormones, but no conclusive results have been reached. Most psychiatrists and medical men would agree that the early life of a child before five has a great effect on tendencies towards homosexuality. The cure is also unknown, alas, for the complete homosexual. Many have tried and desperately want to be cured, but as yet no definite cure has been found—possibly because we do not know the cause.

This is a problem which exists not only in Britain but throughout the world and has existed through all time. I must confess that I can feel only pity for these unfortunate people. They must feel themselves to be aliens, to be outcasts, because their natural instincts can be satisfied only through breaking the law and committing deeds for which most people would feel strong repugnance and which make them liable to extreme penalties. I think that is a dreadful position for them. But I think that we must also pity the small group of strong opponents. They are found not so much among informed people, but we have all seen in the newspapers the extravagant denunciations in the most virulent terms of homosexuality. Psychiatrists have told me that this is invariably the result of suppressed homosexual tendencies. Many of these people, much to their credit, have suppressed these tendencies; but they boil over in abuse of homosexuality.

How can we deal with this problem? I confess that I differ from the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, on one point. I think that the law, far from being respected because it is old, has now become archaic. The old law was made when we did not know much about this problem, and we know a great deal more now. In the light of our recent knowledge it would be highly expedient to have this law altered. We can put the problem in two parts. First, where it is a question of an adult seducing a minor or attacking a minor, whether a woman or a man seducing a girl or a boy, there should be the strongest penalty, There is no doubt that we should all agree about that. The only question is whether sexual activities between consenting adults should be legal in future. I cannot see that a great deal of harm would come if we altered the law in this respect. I cannot believe (and the Report clearly shows this), that it is likely that the seduction of an adult is going to turn a man into a homosexual. The ordinary person with ordinary heterosexual instincts will not be changed by that. There are male prostitutes who do it for money, but the normal man does not became a homosexual because another man has made advances to him.

I think that there are four strong reasons why the law should be altered. First—and this is the thing which must give us a feeling of horror—it would prevent the use of the police as agents provocateurs. I know that the Report says that the police instructions have been not to do this, but I know, from good information, that in fact the police do so, and must do so in many cases. The idea of policemen dressing up and trying to trap men into this kind of behaviour is a horrible one. Secondly, the alteration of the law would bring relief to thousands of men in positions of prominence, trust and responsibility whose lives are frustrated and under a continual cloud. Thirdly, and I think this is very important, it would prevent the danger of blackmail. That is a crime we all deplore—a most odious one—and homosexuality is a most rewarding field for the blackmailer. A man of great ability, intelligence and integrity, in a high position in business, law, politics, anywhere you like, who commits an indiscretion may be subject for ever after to the blackmailer and his attack.

What surprises me is how the law is more concerned with punishing sexual irregularity than with punishing the blackmailer. In paragraph 112 of the Report the case is quoted of two men who committed sexual offences and one blackmailed the other for a long time, extracting money from him. When, finally, the man who had been blackmailed appealed to the law, the Director of Public Prosecutions said that they should both be prosecuted, for the sexual offences and that the blackmail should not be noticed. I think that that is a deplorable state of affairs. In this matter of blackmail, there is the added danger to national security. In a recent case, which we all unfortunately know too well, called in the Press, "The case of the missing diplomats," it was widely believed in America that the reason why these men had gone to another country was because the other country knew about their homosexual life and were blackmailing them accordingly. This caused a good deal of despondency and alarm. It is probably quite untrue, but it seems to me that if you want to eliminate a very real danger you must stop making homosexuality between adults a crime. It is no good saying that the answer is to step up prosecutions, because it only increases the danger. It makes a man more afraid if he has committed something technically illegal; he is more frightened and more subject to the blackmailer. That seems another good reason why we should change the law to make acts between consenting adults legal.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said that Governments are reluctant to grasp such a nettle as this. There is hound to be a certain amount of controversy, but, as in the case of the controversy on the Premium Bonds, it will die down. It is a test of courage if the Government do this, but I appeal to them to be brave, because I believe that what it is right to do should be done.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, this valuable Report propounds the fundamental questions: What is the proper function of the criminal law? What acts should be punished by the State? It is, indeed, upon the answers to those questions that the Committee make it clear that their solution to the problem depends. And as in former days the judges had themselves to ask and answer that very question, "What acts are indictable?" and to declare what acts were indictable, so perhaps I, as a judge, may venture an answer.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has; paraphrased the answer of the Committee by saying that consent by adults together-in private should not be a criminal offence so long as it does not harm other people. The principles, as I understand them, under which the judges originally made this full offence a criminal offence and which have since led Parliament to adopt it, are these: first, the essential feature of a criminal offence is that it is wrongful, morally reprehensible, so that in the minds of right-thinking people it is disapproved of; secondly, it should be harmful—that is to say, it should strike at the safety or the well-being of the society at large; and thirdly, it should he fit to be punished. I hope to come to each of those elements in a moment, but first let me meet the charge of inconsistency which is levelled against the law.

It is said that adultery and fornication are not criminal offences, so why should homosexuality be? The law answers that natural sin is different from unnatural vice. Natural sin is, of course, deplorable, but unnatural vice is worse; because, as the law says, it strikes at the integrity of the human race—and indeed there is a whole category of offences which come within that very circle. First, take bestiality, which comes within this self-same section, when it was passed that: Whosoever shall commit this abominable crime with mankind or any animal shall be guilty of a felony. I have been round the circuits and heard cases of a man with a cow, a sheep or a dog. Is it to be suggested that, because that is in private, it is to be no criminal offence? Take next incest: father with daughter; brother with sister. Take sexual intercourse with a mentally defective woman who is out on licence—she may or may not be a child. The law must either condemn or it must condone; and one can only stop such people living together by condemning them. It may be,.added that in such cases there may be children.

Let me go a step further, and take sadism. A few years back a man took a young girl of seventeen, with her complete consent, and beat her with a cane, so that there were seven or eight red marks on her body. It was held by the judges that that was a criminal offence, if it was likely to interfere with her health or comfort. That was done in private, between consenting adults. Take sterilisation. There was a case a little while ago where a hosiptal porter arranged with a doctor at the hospital that he should, by a slight operation, sterilise him, so that he could have all the gratification of sexual intercourse without any of the responsibilities. I thought, and still think, that it was a criminal offence between consenting adults—if you please, in private. Or take abortion; take suicide or attempted suicide—all within our calendar of crimes. They all come within the category: they strike at the continuance and the integrity of the human race. And that is why they are put in a different category from adultery or fornication.

Then let me take the charge of inconsistency so far as lesbianism is concerned. Lesbianism is generally regarded as not so widespread or so harmful as offences between males. Indeed, that is the sort of distinction that is taken by the law; it depends on the degree to which the practice is widespread or harmful. Dangerous driving of a motor car is a crime, but furious driving with a horse and cart is not. It is not so widespread or so harmful. So, if I have defended the law against a charge of inconsistency, may this offence be considered in regard to the principles I have enunciated?

First, is it wrongful? No one can doubt that, I hope. The Bible calls it "an abomination"; the Statute Book describes it as an "abominable crime"; and the old lawyers, when they framed their indictments, thought it was a disgrace even to name it; and it was an offence not to be named amongst Christians. So it is wrongful. Is it harmful? This is the point: that the harmfulness of it may vary infinitely in gradation. Of course the worst cases are those with boys under the age of puberty—and there is a whole class of men of that kind singled out in the Report. When a boy is over the age of puberty it is impossible to draw the line. The Report says that homosexuals seek out partners with whom to commit misdeeds. Take the instance of a convinced homosexual who seeks out another convinced homosexual. In that case there is no harm except their mutual degradation. But take the many other cases where the convinced homosexual approaches a man who is on the verge or on the balance. This approach may tip that man over so that he becomes a homosexual and gets his gratification there, whereas otherwise he might have married and had a normal life. There is the case of corruption.

But there is a third case, that of exploitation, where the homosexual, by means of money or goods, hospitality or promises of advancement in a profession, induces another younger man. not inclined that way, to submit to his advances—he does so for the sake of easy money. That man may not be turned into a convinced homosexual, bin is it not harmful to the community as a whole?

Then consider the case where the homosexual approaches a man and the man repels him with indignation. Many is the case I have tried where the normal man repels with a fist such an approach. At the moment he is justified by the law in doing so, because it is a criminal offence to solicit a person for immoral purposes. But if this offence were abolished, I do not know that the man who strikes the blow would have that defence, because it might be said to be an unjustifiable assault.


May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord? Is he quite certain on that point? Has he made up his mind entirely? I have been given a different view by people—I do not say more eminent than the noble Lord, because that is impossible, but by people almost as eminent.


I would not say I have made up my mind on it; I only suggest that it is a possibility. It obviously has not come up for decision yet. But the position is, I suggest, that if this act is made lawful, there might be a question of whether the man who strikes a blow in retaliation would have justification for that blow. So much for the question of the harmfulness of it.

Now comes the question of what ought to be done. As I have said, you can have infinite gradations of harmfulness. What, then, is to be done? The law, in such cases as this, recognises this degree of harmfulness by letting it be reflected in the sentence. Take the case of bigamy. You may have cases which are grevious cases, where the woman is deceived into the second marriage. The man then receives almost automatically a prison sentence. You may have cases where there is no element of deception at all: the woman knows all about the first marriage, and goes through the second "marriage" for the sake of appearances. In that case there is no sentence and no punishment. Take the case of sexual intercourse with a girl under sixteen. There is never any prosecution if she does net have a baby. If she does, and the boy is seventeen, there is never any sentence. You can have infinite gradations in harmfulness which are reflected in the sentence of the court.

Then it is said: "The law is haphazard. You can have police in one county prosecuting, and not in another." That is a serious criticism; and, indeed, in some offences, like incest or bribery of an agent, the solution has been found in that there shall be no prosecution except with the consent of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. I am wondering whether the suggestion in the Report, echoed by my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara, has not a lot to commend it. It may, indeed, provide the solution: that there should not be a prosecution except with the consent of the Attorney, General or the Director of Public Prosecutions. Or more easily, administratively, why should not the prosecution in cases, say, of persons over 21 consult the Director of Public Prosecutions? That would ensure uniformity. There would not be prosecutions when there ought not to be prosecutions. The objections which have been raised might well be met by such a method as that.

Then the last point with which I would deal is the suggestion that the law is ineffective. It is said: look how many thousands of homosexuals there are! Look how the convictions have increased, and the law is powerless to deal with it! And look at the blackmail to which it gives rise! May I say that if those arguments were valid they would apply equally well to abortion. There are thousands and thousands of cases, and the only prosecutions are where a woman dies or is so ill that she is taken to hospital. There is plenty of scope for blackmail there, but does anyone say that that should be taken out of the calendar of criminal offences? Even perjury. There is far too much of that, yet very little prosecution, simply because of the difficulty of proof.

The trouble is that in all these cases the law must either condemn or condone; and in cases such as this it must condemn even though convictions are rare. Because is it not the case that for so many people now it is the law alone which sets the standard? If you reprove such a one for his conduct, he will say,."Why should I not do it? There is no law against it." It is said that it is the personal responsibility of that individual. But I am afraid that Hell fire and eternal damnation hold no terrors nowadays. May I ask the question with which I started: Ts this conduct so wrongful and so harmful that, in the opinion of Parliament, it should be publicly condemned and, in proper cases, punished? I would say that the answer is, Yes; the law should condemn this evil for the evil it is, but the judges should be discreet in their punishment of it.

7.6 p.m.


My Lords, it is a difficult task to follow such a learned judge as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, but as I may be differing from him a little in what I say I think we must remind ourselves that judges are familiar with dealing with the worst cases that exist, and therefore their views must be coloured by that fact. I should like to say a few words about the part of the Wolfenden Report which deals with homosexual offences, because, having read it, unlike the noble Earl, Lord Winterton I have been converted to the view that the change in the law is necessary—namely, the change we have all been discussing this afternoon that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private shall no longer be a criminal offence.

I have said that I have been converted, which indicates that I did not always hold this view. I have been converted as a result of reading with great care the Wolfenden Report, as the arguments seem to be so strong, if considered dispassionately, which is always an extremely difficult thing to do when dealing with matters of this kind which are apt to rouse feelings of strong emotion and sometimes false emotion. I remember some years ago talking to an acquaintance of mine—a very undesirable character—who habitually indulged in adultery, drunkenness and gambling. I remember his saying to me, almost with tears in his eyes, "Well, the one thing I cannot stand or tolerate is homosexual behaviour." Of course, that was a great chance for him to appear to be superior. It was probably the only sin he had never committed, because he had never had any desire to do so.

This Report objectively puts the problems in their right perspective, and the conclusions are based on a great deal of evidence, both written and oral, which was presented to the Committee. I see that they sat on sixty-two occasions and took oral evidence on thirty-two occasions. I believe that some of the conclusions at which they arrived are of particular interest, and may surprise a good many people. The first one to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is that homosexual behaviour concerns only a small minority of the population. The Committee do not think there is any reason to suppose that it has increased in recent years. It is more talked about and it is more written about, but that does not mean that it has been increasing all the time.

Secondly, I should like to bring out the point which the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon made, that it is not confined to one class. Here, again, I believe most people think that it is more or less confined to the intelligentsia, but statistics do not support this. It appears that a labourer is just as susceptible as a dress designer. The third point, which I think the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, would disagree with if he were here, is that a great many homosexuals are perfectly normal people in other respects and live respectable decent lives. They are not all dressed up in odd clothes like the gentleman the noble Earl was talking about. Therefore, my Lords, I think that if we bear these conclusions in mind it may make it easier for us to appreciate the argument for a change in the law. Provided these people do not corrupt or exploit others, and behave decently in public, why should they not be left in peace and obscurity? I myself have come across a case of a couple of men living together for years on terms of great affection and devotion, and I do not think any useful social purpose is served by prying into their exact physical relationship.

The argument has been used many times in this House this afternoon, and it will be used many times again whenever this subject is under discussion, that the whole idea is repulsive; and indeed it is. But also to me the idea of an old man of over 70 marrying a young girl of 18 is equally repulsive, and that is certainly not a crime and probably not a sin. The Appendix to this Report says that the law on this subject in this country is out of step with that of most other European countries, and also that those same countries do not appear to have had any increase in homosexual behaviour. Now it may well be that public opinion here is not ready yet to approve of this change of the law. If that is the case I feel sure that we should not go too fast but should patiently try to convince the public that the recommendations of this Report are sound.

I hope it will not be said by the critics of this Report that it is soft on homosexualism. Far from it. In some cases it is asking for the creation of new criminal offences in regard to living on the earnings of a male prostitute or keeping a male brothel, and I think Lord Pakenham in his opening speech gave other instances. Also the Report categorically states that prison will always have its place as a method of dealing with homosexual offenders. The recommendations, in my view, are not soft but sensible; and though I would deprecate undue haste, I hope it will not be too long before they are sufficiently approved of to become law. Enlightened opinion in the Church, the legal profession and the medical profession has already given quite a strong lead in this direction. And I think the debate which has taken place this afternoon in your Lordships' House has been of great value. Perhaps it may not be so long before the changes in the law on homosexual offences find their way to the Statute Book.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Kilmuir, made a good deal of the difficulties of definition of "in private" and "consent", but I somehow think that if Her Majesty's Government really thought public opinion wanted this change those rather technical difficulties might be overcome. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware that barely a fortnight ago there was a debate in the Oxford Union on this subject, and one of the biggest majorities in the Union's history voted in favour of this recommendation, so it may well be that what Oxford thinks to-day the rest of the country will think to-morrow.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I join with others who have paid tribute to the Committee for the thorough and careful examination of the problems connected with homosexuality and prostitution. Those of us who are critical of some of its recommendations are appreciative of the great amount of information collected, the wide variety of people and organisations consulted and the candour with which the problems are described and discussed. There arc, however, some matters about which I must still remain critical, and I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Denning, for his clear explanation of the function of law. In another place I used the argument, to the best of my ability, that this Report drew the line between the spheres of law and morality far too definitely and clearly; that that was basically a mistake and was therefore bound to prejudice in some measure the whole of the Report. I think, from what the noble Lord, Lord Denning, says, he would agree with that contention, and I still maintain that the civil law is within its proper scope if it attempts to control acts which are against the common good even when done in private. I believe it is completely misleading to suggest that an immoral act does not seriously affect the public until it is done in public. There are others of your Lordships who can argue this point with far greater knowledge: than I can, but I am glad to be here and to find good, reasonable and learned support for the contention I have tried to make between the sphere of morality and law.

The next point I want to take up is that which has been discussed freely and fully this afternoon. It is concerning the recommendation that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private be no longer a criminal offence. I am glad that one member of the Committee firmly opposed the proposal and has set out his reasons in a clear and, I think, moderate manner, and to me a very convincing manner. This kind of conduct between consenting males is not simply private and personal. No man can engage in it without bringing another into it, and when another is brought in it is not merely personal and private; it becomes something like social. The removal of the legal penalties from this offence must mean that the law would tolerate in future what it before condemned. Condonation and not condemnation would be the attitude of the State as reflected in its legislation. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Denning, emphasised this clear fact.


My Lords, may I interrupt for one moment? Is the right reverend Prelate telling us that whenever the law tolerates something—in other words does not forbid it with penal sanctions—it condones it? Is that the general proposition? I was not quite sure when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, was speaking whether that was so. Now that it has been repeated, could we have the answer?


My Lords, my contention is that the conclusion which the general public must draw from the abolition of this law is that the State now condones what before it condemned. That is my contention and I believe it is not unlikely that that is the deduction that will be made by the vast majority of people in this country. I know that theoretically one can argue against it so long as one is dealing with the realm of ideas, but in the rank and file of everyday life it will be assumed that abolishing the law means tolerating this—condoning it, not condemning it.

The main reason given for the removal of this penalty is that there are no corresponding legal penalties for fornication, adultery, and other irregular sexual acts. It is claimed that homosexuality should be classified with these for it is no: a worse offence. That point has been brought out again and again in this debate. Yet the Committee do not follow this argument to its logical conclusion—that is what is so strange. Had they done so, they would have made the age of consent for homosexuality the same as the age of consent for fornication and adultery. We cannot put these sins all on the same level and then say that some of them are all right at sixteen but one of them will be wrong until the age of twenty-one years. The reasons given in the Report for fixing the age at sixteen are, to my mind, far stronger than those given for fixing it at twenty-one; and the Committee admit that the age of twenty-one is chosen arbitrarily.

Why should the age of consent for homosexuality be fixed at twenty-one if it is no worse an offence than fornication? Why should young men of twenty, nineteen, and eighteen, be protected against approaches by a homosexual if no protection is given to young women of sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty for an offence that is no better or no worse than that to which the young man is subjected? It seems to me that if the Committee had been logical, it was bound to fix the age of consent, whatever it might be, as the same for all. The only explanation I can see is that in their subconscious minds they had a real conviction that somehow or other this offence is worse in its results than the others. I hope I have made this point clear, because although it has not been brought out by other speakers I am convinced that there would have been no difference in the age of consent unless there was in the minds of the Committee a difference in the seriousness of the respective offences.

I submit that a very strong reason against the abolition of the penalty for homosexual practice between consenting males is the effect that that will have on public opinion and on the public attitude towards such conduct. The Committee lay stress on the natural revulsion to such actions and maintain that this natural revulsion in men will always be a strong deterrent. It is true that there is this revulsion, but who can say how much it has been strengthened or sustained by the knowledge that this practice is a criminal offence? People who are loyal to the law develop strong feelings against criminal offences. Those who have been brought up with a strong religious sense and those who have grown up in a healthy, clean, moral tradition develop this sense of revulsion strongly, and I do not think that they have any need for the support of the law. To say that homosexuality, fornication and adultery are sins is to say what is the truth, and those who have religious feelings and a strong moral sense recognise these as sins—sins against God and man. To describe them as sins is therefore a deterrent for those for whom sin has some significance; but to say that to those for whom God has either no meaning or is quite irrelevant to life is to say nothing that has any significance whatsoever. I know the truth of this from my experience in parochial work among all kinds of people, for over thirty-five years in this country, eleven of them in East London.

I wish, with all my heart, that to tell people such conduct was a sin against God would be a wholesome and strong deterrent; but for a big section of the people, especially in the larger towns and cities of England, it means nothing at all, for God, even when He is not denied, is so irrelevant to them and so remote from their thought that He does not enter into the concerns of their life. Lest I should be misunderstood, let me say that vast numbers of these are kindly, neighbourly, helpful folk. But they take their standards of conduct from those around them, from what they read in the Press and what they see in pictures, and, above all, from what the law allows or forbids. Forgive me if I say that as I have listened to debates here and elsewhere I have been impressed by the fact that there is a great gap between the thinking of many people on this subject of the relationship of law and morality and the thinking of ordinary folk, in the highways and byways of life, who do not think very much about it at all. To abolish the law against homosexuality is not only to do something negative; it is making a positive suggestion that it is no longer a serious offence; and though this will have little effect on those who are governed by religious conviction or moral principles, it will have a big effect on the vast numbers of others.

I have always been concerned in all my years with social welfare, and I have come here to express my honest conviction that the abolition of this law would take away props from many people who need help and it would alter the whole attitude of people towards a practice that has already had serious effects upon community life. Here I want to say that, in arguing in this way, I am not lacking in sympathy or understanding for those who are given to such practices. I have seen too many of them for that. For many years, in co-operation with the medical profession and, indeed, in co-operation with the police, I have had to deal with those who are tormented with the misdirection of vital instinctive forces. My sympathy goes out especially to that section which is described as "inverts", for I place them in a very special category. No one can conic face to face with such people or, indeed, with the ordinary perverts, without being moved by their condition, pitiable in many cases and depraved in not a few. Working in cities, I have seen such people as those who have been described. I have seen men who themselves were the victims of pressure falling to this temptation.

A noble Lord described to-day the segregation of homosexuals in prisons as converting prisons into infectious hospitals. That is true. What I want to emphasise is that they are infectious. There seem to be too many people who assume that you are either a homosexual or not a homosexual by nature, and you cannot do much about it, and other people can be interfered with without being affected. I do not believe a word of it, because I have seen, with my own eyes, young men brought to a state of agony of soul and degradation of spirit through the attentions of those who would not leave them alone in order to seek their own gratification, at whatever cost to another. if the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, thinks that that is an expression of suppressed homosexuality, he may go on thinking. But that is no more true than many of the statements which have been made by psychologists, that nearly all actions are due to some suppression and that nobody is really responsible for his actions because he is the victim of certain circumstances, and that if you have a very had temper it is, in all probability, not your fault but due to the fact that. you had an ill-tempered aunt.

I believe that victims of homosexuality, particularly the perverts, need the help of the law. It is a kind of red light to give warning of the dangerous conditions ahead. But I believe that the penal code attaching to this crime needs some revision. I agree that imprisonment is rarely the right kind of penalty, though I believe it should be retained as the last resort for the worst offenders. I am of the opinion that Her Majesty's Judges are quite capable, in most cases, of detecting who are the inverts and who are the perverts, and can, in all probability, prescribe an appropriate penalty. I recognise that that is not easy to do, and I have not yet met many of the medical profession who say they can de it, but it sometimes comes out as you hear these persons speak. My plea is to retain the law and give fresh consideration to the penalties attaching to this offence.

I would make one other point: the law exists more to defend society than to punish evil-doers, and I think that this function of the law must be kept clearly before us. The protection of society is, I submit, the primary function of the law, and the imposition of penalties on evildoers is only secondary and is meant to serve the other purpose. I somehow get the impression that this Report shows more concern for the offender than for the protection of society as a whole.

My Lords, I do not want to detain you any longer. I shall not speak upon the second part of the Report beyond saying that I am in full agreement with the contention of the most reverend Primate in thinking that this Report is unfairly loaded against prostitutes and not loaded enough against those who use them for their own gratification or use them for financial ends. I have one positive suggestion to make and I hope I may be allowed to make it in a sentence. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, finished his speech by giving a quotation from the Report. I should like to ask whether the Government would initiate or inspire a conference of representatives from national organisations which have the general well-being of our people at heart, to which would be invited representatives of those organs which are influential in forming public opinion in the country, such as the national Press, the cinema and picture papers, as well as novelists and artists, with a view to a national effort that would spotlight the need for a clean, healthy social and national life.

I believe that this whole problem has been accentuated by the exploitation of sex for financial gain, sometimes by pictures and by some sections of the Press, and sometimes even by advertisements. I cannot help thinking that there are a great many decent-minded men, as well as organisations with high ideals, who would welcome the opportunity of being invited officially by the Government to come together to organise a campaign that would affect public opinion and give to the whole country a far healthier, cleaner and happier view of sex than that which prevails so widely—a view that might lead to people generating in themselves a respect for women, a respect for their own body, and a desire to show loyalty to the country by making this the kind of land that we should all like England to become.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to speak for only a very few minutes, but while the debate was proceeding I felt that there was one thing which it was necessary to say. May I say that when my noble friend Lord Pakenham opened the debate he did so with such balance, skill and delicacy, if I may say so, that he almost persuaded me, in spite of my feeling on this matter. I was disturbed when this Report was published and I read it, and, as the debate has progressed, it has seemed to me more and more that, in examining the case and the woes of the homosexual, we have almost forgotten the great mass of the people of this country. I have therefore risen to say, for the benefit of the reports—particularly those that go out to the world at large—that the great mass of the people of this country regard homosexuality with deep horror. While they may have their defects, I know well from my own experience that that is their feeling with regard to homosexuality. And I think that is a remarkable thing, when one considers the conditions attaching to the growth of industrialism in this country during the last two centuries.

As we know, great masses were drawn into certain areas, and they had to live under all kinds of lamentable conditions. Large families were housed in very small dwellings. I myself know something of that, for I was one of a family of ten. We lived in three rooms, and some of us slept four in a bed. I certainly did for a good part of my young life. Sometimes in the winter I used to wake up on the floor, fighting for the blankets. I use that only as an illustration of the kind of thing that took place regularly in the 19th and 20th centuries. When you consider the attitude of the great mass of the people of this country to homosexuality—as I say they regard it with deep horror—I think you will agree that it is a remarkable tribute to them. I certainly agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has said so much better than I could say—that if any Government were to handle this problem along the lines suggested, so as to give a kind of special preference to adult homosexuals, under certain conditions, they would strike at something that is finest in the life of the people of this nation, with consequences from which the nation would probably never recover.

My Lords, that is all I want to say. Other noble Lords have been kind enough to allow me to intervene at this juncture. It would, of course, be possible to argue this matter. One knows that behind the Committee's conclusion there is psychiatric thought and some things based, perhaps, upon scientific thought. One has had to pity people who have found themselves concerned in this sort of practice because they could not help themselves. But people who have respect for themselves, and who have no regard whatever for the type of crime or the treatment that is proposed, are the people who really should be considered. I repeat, if ever any Government dealt with this problem in this way it would be a terrible thing. I was very pleased indeed to hear what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor had to say about this matter. If any Government should take such a course, I am quite sure that they would do violence to something that is best in the life of this country.

7.46 p.m.


My Lords, I have found it difficult properly to study this Report which deals with matters entirely outwith my knowledge and experience, and I am sure that in this respect I must be in the same position as many others in having a sense of being contaminated when trying to adjust my mind to an understanding of the practices upon which comment is made. In the early paragraphs of the Report, as will be seen on pages 8 and 9, attention is called to some variations of the law as between Scotland and the Southern part of Britain. The Committee show that Scotland is in a slightly better position in this respect, though I have no wish to stress this aspect. One point which strikes me about the Report is the comparatively small number of women's organisations shown as having given evidence to the Committee. A glance through the list will cause other women's organisations to spring to the mind. I wonder whether this shows a shrinking with repugnance from the whole subject.

There is obvious in the Report a great concern to judge gently those who are guilty of practices which are repugnant to the normal, moral sense of ordinary, decent people, and there is clearly great difficulty in adjusting the law to meet each type of case. I cannot see any other way except to legislate regarding the actual deed and to judge of the culpability of the transgressor, and thus of the penalty, by reference to the mental and other capacity of each individual charged. In this connection, I was glad to hear the wonderfully clear and lucid speech of the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Cross-Benches, Lord Denning. I must say also, so far as this point goes, that I thought the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack put matters very clearly. To stress too much the point about whether the offensive act is committed in private or in a place where it could be more easily detected is simply to cater for the better organisation of facilities for the carrying on of practices which are liable to penalties; and in my estimation the greatest punishment of all should be reserved for those who, for their own gain, make themselves the instruments for providing the means and the persons for the exploitation of the wickedness or weakness of their fellow men and women.

I am anxious not to occupy too much of your Lordships' time—indeed the sole cause of my name being on the list of speakers in the debate is my keen desire to associate myself with what are, as I consider them, the convincing arguments contained in the Reservations made by Mr. James Adair, in which he dissociates himself from the majority of the Committee where they recommend that homosexual acts committed in private by consenting male adults should be taken out of the realm of the criminal law. I have admired Mr. Adair's excellent work for years. When I think of his great knowledge and experience, gained in his position of Procurator Fiscal in Edinburgh and Glasgow, his activity among young men and boys as Chairman of the Scottish Council of the Y.M.C.A., and his long service as an elder of the Church of Scotland, I accept the validity and force of what he has written. I will not read the nearly six pages of his reservation (though I would dearly like to put them on record in our Hansard), but I should like to quote the following from sub-paragraph (iii), towards the bottom of page 119 of the Report. Here is the quotation: If the recommendation be adopted,"— that is, to take these acts out of the criminal code— the moral force of the law will be weakened. I am convinced that the main body of the community recognises clearly the moral force of the criminal law of the land. Many citizens, it must be admitted, regard the prohibitions expressly imposed by law as the utmost limits set to their activities and are prepared to take full advantage of any omission or relaxation. It would be surprising if there are not considerable numbers with this philosophy among those with whom we are concerned in this inquiry, and the removal of the present prohibition from the criminal code will be regarded as condoning or licensing licentiousness, and will open up for such people a new field of permitted conduct with unwholesome and distasteful implications. As I say, I should have liked to quote much more of what Mr. Adair has said, but I think that what I have read gives a powerful indication of his view. I found his reservation the most wholesome reading in the whole of the Report. I do not think that the truth of the passage I have read can be denied, and I hope that, in view of Mr. Adair's warning, the Government will not think of acting on the Committee's recommendation. I am glad that we have had it from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack to-day that the point of view I am seeking to express is in the mind of the Government at the present time. It is my belief that the retention of the penalties which it is proposed to remove should act as a deterrent to those who wickedly pursue such practices and should be an additional spur to those who do their best to help themselves to overcome what is wrong. Someone who is acting in a way that is reprehensible, yet tries to avoid it, may break down: but it seems to me that if he has the further stimulus of a penalty that will be helpful to him.

In conclusion, I would say that the aim should be to bring home to those who are indicted by this Report that their actions are viewed with repugnance, amounting to condemnation, by their fellow-citizens, who wish them to strive their utmost against all that separates them from normal companionship and sympathy. If they set before them, steadfastly and prayerfully, a truly Christian life as their goal, they are certain to raise themselves in their own estimation and also in that of their fellow-men, and they will rid themselves of the bonds that have hitherto held them in thrall. May God inspire our thoughts for them and enable us to help them as they need! That is surely our Christian duty.

7.56 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships have listened this afternoon to some remarkable and excellent speeches. I should like to recall a phrase from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I am not certain that I can quote it verbatim, but at any rate I know the sense to be right. The noble Lord said that indulgence in a homosexual act is not a temptation to a normal man. I think that gives a perspective to our discussion.

If, as now seems likely from what the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has told us, the Government have no intention of implementing the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report, or, at any rate, those with regard to homosexuality, that makes further advocacy of the merits of the Report rather academic for the purposes of this debate. For this reason, I shall confine myself to one aspect of the Report which I think offers some immediate prospects for an amelioration of the lot of these unfortunate people.

In saying "unfortunate people", I am thinking primarily of the person who is handicapped by having a preference for a member of his own sex and not so much of the person who gives way to an act in conformity with his peculiar propensity. I should like to talk for a moment about the therapeutic possibilities, on which I believe the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, touched—I must apologise for not being in the Chamber at the time. In this respect I find the Report disappointing and somewhat gloomy. This is confirmed by such medical opinion as I have available to me. The therapeutic aspects of homosexuality are referred to in several places in the Report, but they are specifically dealt with in paragraphs 190 to 212. In earlier pages the Report devotes considerable space to demolishing the idea that homosexuality is a disease. To my mind, it does this effectively and convincingly. Moreover, on page 14, paragraph 28, the Committee say this: Biochemical and endocrine studies so far carried out in this field have, it appears, proved negative, and investigations of body-build and the like have also so far proved inconclusive If the manifestation or condition of homosexuality is not a disease, a glandular disorder or a congenital defect, how is the ordinary layman to think of it? So far as our present knowledge extends, it seems that the weight of probability rests in favour of regarding it as a constitutional abnormality, not (to use an analogy) unlike congenital blindness or deafness, but different in having a psychological rather than a physiological manifestation. Nevertheless, like blindness—and I think it is important to stress this fact—it varies immensely in degree. This analogy with such disabilities as congenital blindness or deafness cannot be carried too far, of course, but, at least, it has the merit that it does not suggest that there is any diminution of moral responsibility. The Report says, in paragraph 191: It seems to us that the academic question whether homosexuality is a disease is of much less importance than the practical question of the extent to which, and the ways in which, treatment can help those in whom the condition exists. The Report then goes on to discuss the aims and methods of treatment in what is to my mind, as I said, an unduly pessimistic manner. This pessimism is somewhat counteracted by a note by Dr. Curran and Dr. Whitby, included in the Report on page 72, and it is to their note that I should like to draw your Lordships' attention; I have no intention of reading the whole of it, but I should like to mention one or two points. Their note begins: We are of the opinion that the assessment reached by our non-medical colleagues in paragraphs 191 to 212 calls for expansion in certain respects. Our reasons are that in our view"— and then there is given a list of reasons. The only reason I wish to mention is the third one, which says: An appearance of unjustified pessimism has been shown in assessing the outlook for many homosexuals, with or without treatment. I should now like to turn, in the same note, to paragraph 4, which says: Aims of treatment.—As mentioned in paragraph 192, there are broadly three possible objectives: (i) a change in the direction of sexual preference; (ii) a better adaptation to the sexual problem and to life in general, and (iii) greater continence or self-control. Treatment is not generally specifically aimed at achieving only one of these objectives and. when successful, modifications often occur in more than one way. My final quotation from this same note is taken from page 74, which is paragraph 4 (i). That deals with the change in preference, or the attempt by treatment to get a change in preference; that is, the heterosexual attitude. It says: If the aim of treatment be restricted to the total reorientation of a well-established homosexual propensity of the 'Kinsey 6' type,"— that is, a high-rating homosexuality— there is justifiable pessimism, as is fully emphasised in paragraph 193. In practice, such cases form a minority of those reaching the psychiatrist. For example, in one well-known clinic, 'Kinsey 6'"— and "Kinsey 6", if I may remind your Lordships, is the rating given by the late Dr. Kinsey to those only aroused sexually by members of their own sex, and not by members of the other sex— formed 14 per cent. and 'Kinsey 5' 26 per cent. of the cases seen; so that 60 per cent. were of a lower Kinsey rating—or in other words bi-sexual. Other clinics give comparable figures, and the experience of prison medical officers is similar. As will be seen later, there are grounds for reasonable optimism for change in sexual orientation in this majority group. In this connection, the large group of youngsters and young men with what is often called 'transitional' homosexuality is especially important. Then, in the same section, the note says: The encouraging fact is that many pass through a homosexual phase satisfactorily and without medical help. It is noteworthy in this connection to observe that Kinsey found that 8 per cent. of 'Kinsey 6' homosexual males past adolescence indulged exclusively in homosexual acts for over three years, but only 4 per cent. did so throughout their lives. The inference is that a shift occurred, certainly in performance and probably in preference as well. The same phenomenon is often found in ordinary psychiatric case-taking when going over a patient's past history. Many factors are at work in producing this result, including both maturation and the most variable and diverse environmental influences. That quotation, my Lords, to my mind, combined with the medical evidence which has come to my notice, shows that, except in a small residue of cases, there is definite hope for treatment; and surely treatment is preferable to any other method of dealing with this matter. I am not, of course, for one moment suggesting that sexual crimes of any sort should not be punished.

8.9 p.m.


My Lords, at this late stage in the debate I do not intend to speak for long. We have had a most interesting debate, and we must be grateful to my noble friend Lord Pakenham for initiating it. I feel, too, that we should be grateful to the Government for facing these two difficult problems, which have, indeed, been evaded for a great many years, and for appointing this Committee, and also to the Committee, of whom I am glad the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, was a member, for their courageous and full Report.

During the debates we have had recently on the reform of your Lordships' House certain speakers have tended to say from time to time that we mirror public opinion. I do not know whether that is true or not; but I have listened to every speech in this debate, and I have found that the number of noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the recommendations about homosexuality and those noble Lords who have spoken against are roughly the same. That is an interesting point, and it may be that the Government will wish to take a little longer for public opinion to crystallise, because it is quite clear that public opinion is deeply divided on this burning question.

We have the case of the Established Church, where the most reverend Primate, with certain reservations, has accepted these recommendations, while the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and one or two of the Spiritual Lords have felt equally strongly against. Amongst those whom I may, with all due deference, describe as our elder statesmen, we have the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who gave a moving speech in favour, and the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, who feels strongly against. On these Benches, my noble friend Lord Huntingdon was in favour, and my noble friends Lord Lawson and Lord Mathers felt equally strongly and sincerely against. For my part, I must confess to a certain feeling of disappointment that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack did not feel inclined to accept the most controversial recommendation which, of course, is No. (i). But possibly the Government will have second thoughts about that matter later on, when they have been able to sound public opinion.

I found myself strongly in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Jesse], because, reading this Report, I found that the arguments in favour of changing the law were overwhelming and far outweighed the arguments in favour of keeping the law as it is. But I noticed that, of the two recommendations which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, quoted from the Report, which were Nos. (ix) and (xiii), the Lord Chancellor said that he would look into them, and that the Government would make a decision in due course. These two recommendations are much less controversial than No. (i), and I think it would be difficult to say that there was not a great deal in their favour. Recommendation No, (ix), as your Lordships know, deals with the cases of blackmail. I must confess that I was surprised to read in the Wolfenden Report of a case where a man who had indulged in homosexual practices and was being blackmailed by his former partner had gone to the police and complained, and when eventually the case came to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions the two of them were prosecuted. I think that that is a question which needs careful consideration and investigation by the Government.

The other recommendation is No. (viii), which deals with what I might describe as the follow-up cases. May I recount it in simple terms? One takes the case of a man, whom we will call A. who is called up before the police, it may be for a homosexual offence, it may be for one that is not. In the course of his interrogation, it turns out that he has had relations with another man. B. B is then called up and interrogated. He admits to this, and during the course of his interrogation it comes out that he has had relations with another man. C, it may be four or five years previously. The result in one or two cases has been that not only has A been prosecuted, but also B and C. even though the offence between B and C may have taken place five or six years previously. I am not a lawyer, and I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, is not still in his place, but to me, speaking as a mere layman, this state of affairs seems quite indefensible, and it is a question which, if I may say so with respect, should receive the consideration of the Government. When the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, comes to reply, if he is able to say so at this stage I shall be glad to hear from him that possibly Her Majesty's Government will give these two questions further consideration.

8.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships will agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down that we have had an outstanding and, indeed, a memorable debate this afternoon, and one that has not merely served as another demonstration—if, indeed, that is necessary—of the great variety of knowledge and experience which this House can bring to bear on any problem, but also has illustrated the way it is possible for people of experience and expert knowledge, as well as humanity and tolerance, to hold widely opposed views upon this subject.

As the noble Lord has said, the debate has reflected the approach made by people at large to the recommendations of the Committee. Both inside and outside this House this subject has been discussed with little of the intolerance and hypocrisy which too often confused discussion in the past. Here I should like to join with my noble and learned friend, and with other speakers, in paying a tribute to the work of Sir John Wolfenden and the members of his Committee, including the noble Marquess who spoke so courageously this afternoon. Quite apart from their positive and constructive proposals, their Report has served, both by the facts which it presented and by its balanced discussion of them, to clear people's minds as to the real nature of the legal, social and moral issues involved in the problems of homosexuality and prostitution, as has been pointed out by several speakers. That, in itself, as the most reverend Primate said, is a real service.

But the question with which Her Majesty's Government must most closely concern itself is the extent to which the Committee's proposals for changes in the law should be implemented. In spite of what the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, said in his closing words, I cannot feel that it is cowardly for any Government to take account of public feeling, and this is just the sort of issue in which it is even more important than usual to judge how far the Committee have succeeded in carrying public feeling with them. These problems of social behaviour arouse the concern of a multitude of ordinary people, and to legislate in such a way as to do violence to their feelings would not be the way in which to achieve an acceptable solution of the problems.

It has been argued that, leaving aside the problem of protecting the immature, homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private is a private matter and so one which the law should leave to the private conscience of those concerned. But to-day's debate has surely shown that in that argument not everyone agrees with the Committee where the distinction between public law and private morals should be drawn; and, as some of your Lordships have pointed out, the social consequences of carrying out the Committee's main recommendation on homosexuality might well he serious. But let me assure your Lordships that the Government will study with care all that has been said during the course of the debate.

On the subject of prostitution, some of your Lordships expressed support for the Committee's main objective of cleaning up the streets, though it was pointed out by others that this does not in itself strike at the root causes of prostitution. I do not myself see why this fact should render the aim any the less desirable as an immediate objective, since it may well, as several speakers said, reduce the number of cases in which young girls are recruited to the profession by the bad example of their seniors. Also it may protect their potential clients from the most obvious form of temptation; and, in addition, will spare the feelings of those whose sense of decency is at present being outraged. As my noble and learned friend has said, the Government do not intend to overlook the recommendations of the Committee which are directed to the reclamation of those unfortunate women, and particularly the younger girls. I would say to the noble Lord who spoke last that I understood my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack to say that he would look into the points which the noble Lord has raised.

I cannot sit down without again drawing attention to the very valuable service which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenharn, has performed in bringing to the notice of your Lordships' House the Wolfenden Report and the issues raised by it. As always, debates in your Lordships' House illuminate the problems upon which they are focused, and in considering the extent to which the Committee's recommendations should be implemented Her Majesty's Government will find that what has been said to-day will be of great value; and they will, of course, also take account of the opinions which may be expressed in another place.

8.23 p.m.


My Lords, I know that the whole House who are still with us would like me to thank the noble Lord who has just replied for the most charming and suitable way in which he has performed that task. I know well that if the time had permitted a longer speech, and if the House had been larger, he would have spoken at greater length. But I feel that he has given us exactly what we wished for, and certainly I have no possible complaint—indeed, very much the opposite. Naturally, those who took a certain view advanced by myself and others will have been disappointed by the content of the Government reply. I will not go into that matter now. There will be opportunities of discussing these great questions again and again until they have been much further advanced. But the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, who I fully realise had to leave early, as he explained to me, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, may be sure that we appreciate their courtesy. We are disappointed with the content but we understand some of the difficulties in which they feel they are placed.

My Lords, I would add only one other point, I am afraid that I interrupted the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle a little brusquely. I am sure he has forgiven me. But there was the point of some importance made by the right reverend Prelate, which was made in a slightly different form by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who spoke with such forensic brilliance. I hope the word "forensic" is not regarded as pejorative; coming from a humble layman like myself it is a compliment. Certainly those who think as I do—and that seems to include a great number of the House—would never agree that when the law ceases to condemn something with legal sanctions it automatically condones it. I do not think that proposition can have been advanced in the form in which I understood it.

I appreciate the thought in the minds of the noble and learned Lord and the right reverend Prelate, that when you have condemned something by legal sanction and then cease to condemn it you may give the impression that you are condoning it. That is a matter of speculation. In this case, as I said earlier, a great deal would depend on how it was done. If this great change about consenting adults came about, it would be necessary to make it abundantly clear that there was no question of condoning this very sad offence. I had to say that much in order to clear up what might have seemed a misunderstanding.

I will not comment on any other speeches, except to thank particularly those noble Lords who have spoken and are still with us—the noble Lords, Lord Mathers, Lord Lawson, Lord Strabolgi, Lord Derwent and, last but certainly not least, the Marquess of Lothian; and to him I hand all the bouquets left—and I hope there are plenty. I hope that my old friends Lord Mathers and Lord Lawson will not castigate me for saying that there seems to be something of an age difference between these five wise men. I speak as an "oldster," a grandfather and a man of advanced years, and my sympathies lie with the elderly in that sense. Our younger friends seem to take a different view, and that was borne out at Oxford. It does not follow that the young are necessarily right, but I feel that this change is coming, and I hope that this House will play a large part in promoting the change when it comes.

To those who tend to take my side of the argument (though it is not something where I am particularly prominent; I feel that the country is fairly evenly divided, judged by the House and other symptoms), I would say that those who advocate the change still have a task of persuasion to perform, and I think that that task will be performed more readily and more happily if they can show that this change I am talking about, with regard to consenting adults, is not simply the removal of a disability but is coupled with constructive measures. Those who advocate the change must work still harder to make sure that constructive measures are in fact put forward which the Government can reasonably be asked to accept. I feel that that finally should be the thought. There is this change which seems to me a matter not only of prudence but of justice, but it must be coupled with constructive measures, and I think we should all, whatever view we take of the controversy to-day, bend our thoughts to a constructive line of progress. My Lords, I am grateful to those who have taken part and those who have stayed to listen, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes past eight o'clock.