HL Deb 28 October 1965 vol 269 cc677-730

3.20 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


beg to move that the Bill a third time.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Bill read 3ª accordingly.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Arran.)

On Question: Whether the Bill shall be now read 3ª?

Their Lordships divided: Contents 116; Not-contents, 46.

Addison, V. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Newton, L.
Airedale, L. Exeter, L. Bp. Norwich, V.
Amherst, E. Falkland, V. Ogmore, L.
Annan, L. Ferrers, E. Plummer, Bs.
Archibald, L. Fleck, L. Ponsonby, of Shulbrede, L.
Arran, E. [Teller.] Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Queensberry, M.
Ashbourne, L. Gifford, L. Rea, L.
Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs. Gladwyn, L. Reay, L.
Attlee, E. Glasgow, E. Ripon, L. Bp.
Audley, Bs. Greenway, L. Royle, L.
Bedford, D. Hankey, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Boothby, L. [Teller.] Haire of Whiteabbey, L. St. Albans, L. Bp.
Boston, L. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. St. Davids, V.
Bowden, L. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. St. Just, L.
Bowles, L. Hastings, L. Sandford, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Henderson, L. Shepherd, L.
Boyd-Orr, L. Henley, L. Soper, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hertford, M. Sorensen, L.
Brockway, L. Howard of Glossop, L. ooutnwark, L. Bp.
Brown, L. Inchyra, L. Stonham, L.
Burden, L. James of Rusholme, L. Strabolgi, L.
Byers, L. Jessel, L. Strang, L.
Caccia, L. Killearn, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Canterbury, L. Abp. Kinross, L. Strathcarron, L.
Chichester, L. Bp. Kinnoull, E. Swanborough, Bs.
Chorley, L. Latham, L. Swinton, E.
Citrine, L. Leathers, L. Terrington, L.
Clwyd, L. Lilford, L. Thurlow, L.
Colwyn, L. Listowel, E. Twining, L.
Cottesloe, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Vernon, L.
Cran brook, E. Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Wade, L.
Cromartie, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Walston, L.
Darwen, L. Margesson, V. Ward of Witley, V.
Denham, L. Merthyr, L. Wellington, D.
Devonport, V. Milford, L. Williams, L.
Dinevor, L. Mitchison, L. Wise, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Molson, L. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Dudley, L. Mottistone, L. Worcester, L. Bp.
Effingham, E. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Aberdeen and Temair, M. Fortescue, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Merrivale, L.
Allerton, L. Grenfell, L. Milverton, L.
Alport, L. Gridley, L. Monsell, V.
Ampthill, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Morton of Henryton, L.
Barnby, L. [Teller.] Hobson, L. Northchurch, Bs.
Brocket, L. [Teller.] Hodson, L. Rathcavan, L.
Champion, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. Remnant, L.
Clitheroe, L. Hurcomb, L. St. Helens, L.
Coleraine, L. Iddesleigh, E. Selkirk, E.
Crathorne, L. Ilford, L. Shannon, E.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Leatherland, L. Simonds, V.
Ferrier, L. Lindgren, L. Somers, L.
Forbes, L. Long, V. Soulbury, V.
Forster of Harraby, L. MacAndrew, L. Westminster, D. (L. Steward.)
Yarborough, E.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Amendment moved— Clause 1, page 1, line 11, leave out ("persons") and insert ("any person")—(The Earl of Arran.)


My Lords, might we have from the noble Earl an explanation of exactly what this Amendment does? I must say that I think his brevity is commendable, but I believe the House would like to know what he is asking the House to do to his Bill.


My Lords, there is an Amendment and I think it is proper for me to speak to it. I think the noble and learned Viscount knows what it is. It is in Clause 1, Page 1, line 11, to leave out "persons" and insert "any person".


My Lords, might I ask the noble Earl the Leader if he can tell us at what stage of the Bill we are at present?


My Lords, I am assured that we are entirely in order. It is correct to move the Amendment after the Third Reading has been carried.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, Lord Arran, if he can explain why he wants to make this change?


My Lords, may I explain to your Lordships? This Amendment, which has been drafted by Parliamentary Counsel, will, I hope, meet a point made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, during the Report stage. Clause 1(2) of the Bill, as amended on Report, reads: An act which would otherwise be treated for the purposes of this Act as being done in private shall not be so treated if done— (a) in the presence of persons other than the parties to the act …". The noble and learned Viscount expressed the view that, because of the use of the plural "persons", this did not meet the case where only one other person was present, and therefore did not fall in line with the previous Amendment approved by your Lordships. I hope the new Amendment meets the point by providing that an act shall not be treated as being done in private if done in the presence of any person other than the parties to the act. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 11, leave out ("persons") and insert ("any person").—(The Earl of Arran.)


My Lords, I am sure the whole House is grateful to the noble Earl for his clear exposition (which it took a little time to elicit) of exactly the point of the Amendment he is proposing to make to this Bill at this late stage. So far as I am concerned, having heard the explanation, I have no further observation to make with regard to it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. We are here to-day for the purpose of considering this Bill in its final stage. I am by no means assuming that your Lordships will necessarily be of the same mind as you were on Second Reading, when the majority in favour of the Bill was nearly two to one. Also, I am anxious to seek reassurance on this point, even though the Bill, if passed, has no hope of being enacted in this Session.

Your Lordships will remember that this Bill having passed through all its stages except this one by the end of July, we were then forced to abandon it temporarily for the simple reason that, because of Government Business, there was no time then to have a Third Reading. Frankly, I was disappointed. It would have been nice to have, as it were, a signed and sealed document before we went away for the holidays. It was deeply frustrating. However, on thinking it over—and, naturally, in these past months I have given much thought to these matters—I am rather pleased. Had the Bill been completed in July, no doubt that would have given its supporters moral satisfaction, but nothing would have been achieved. The operation might have been successful: the patient would most surely have died. Three months later we have an opportunity of temporarily reviving the corpse, of reminding ourselves that so far we have got precisely nowhere, and of arousing the public conscience once again and at the moment when, presumably, the Government are planning their future legislation. In short, my Lords, I am glad we are discussing these things again to-day.

So I come to our debate. Once again we have a list of distinguished speakers, including one noble and new Lord who bravely has chosen this subject for his maiden speech. Once again we have here the most reverend Primate, perhaps the most courageous man I know; once again we have some young men, or what I call young men; once again we have a highly distinguished Baroness. In the matter of the young men, we must not forget that we are legislating for the future. On the whole, despite the way we began, it looks like being a worthwhile afternoon.

What has happened since we last talked about these matters, in terms of action? Precisely nothing. The law is not changed; the anxieties remain; blackmail still goes on. I fear that most people no longer consider it an interesting business. It has gone off the boil; other things, perhaps more important, occupy our thoughts to-day. One is tempted to wonder whether we should not give up and whether this Bill, even if it is approved, by your Lordships to-day—and I repeat that I am far from taking that for granted—will not completely disappear. Frankly I admit that many times I would gladly have been shot of the whole wretched business. There is no fun in it, and sometimes one feels desperate at some of the letters one receives. Most of my post is anonymous nowadays and such letters do not exactly encourage one to continue. They are full of the most fearful condemnation. Curiously enough, they all seem to quote Deuteronomy and Leviticus but never the Sermon on the Mount, except one letter from a man who calls the Sermon on the Mount "that masterpiece of appeasement". The obscenity of some of these letters passes all belief. No doubt others of your Lordships have had similar communications. These we can laugh off but others, more serious, are also more wounding and make one wonder sometimes whether one is doing the right thing. I suppose in any matter of social reform there must be doubt. But then, just as one is thinking of chucking it, one gets another of those ghastly letters from some man who is being blackmailed or who is facing criminal prosecution, or from parents who are terrified on behalf of their homosexual son.

I said on Second Reading that my reason for introducing this Bill was that I do not like the persecution of minorities. I do not propose to repeat myself, but I will give one single example of what is involved. I have here a letter from a father who writes—and I quote with his permission, of course: We, that is my wife and I, are particularly anxious that this Bill shall become law because our son is, most unfortunately, a homosexual. Naturally we are very concerned, worried and terrified lest he gets into serious trouble as the result. Recently I had a friendly talk with him on his behaviour and the appalling consequences should he get found out. To my horror he replied, 'Don't worry, Dad, if we get found out there will be no disgrace, I shall quietly snuff it'. Understandably, have not told my wife this, but I assure you I live in a world of perpetual fear and anxiety lest one of his contacts, who are unknown to me, should in some way expose him. By "snuff it" presumably the fellow means that he would kill himself. That letter seems to me to epitomise the situation and to show what it is all about. So of course one has to go on.

I suggested a moment ago that little, if anything, had happened since we last debated this subject, except that most people had forgotten about it, but in fact in one regard at least I was being excessively gloomy for, my Lords, something has happened, something quite important. So far we have been debating in the dark; we have had no idea what people in this country think about it at all, and that no doubt has influenced Members of the other place far more than it has influenced your Lordships. After all, we have no constituents except our consciences. Now, for the first time, the veil has been lifted; we have been given an indication, and a strong one.

I personally do not like opinion polls. I do not like being told what I am thinking. All the same, they are now an accepted part of our life and however much one may affect to despise them they are usually broadly correct. They featured largely in your Lordships' debate on the Murder (Abolition of the Death Penalty) Bill. I think the noble Lord, Lord Colyton, asked on Tuesday, "How can Parliament and this House dare to pass this measure and at the same time seek to argue that it is in any way a democratic reflection of the wishes of our people?" This point was taken up by other noble Lords. On this measure, however, thank Heaven we need have no such anxieties! In the past two months there have been two polls on homosexual law reform, a Gallup Poll and a National Opinion Poll. Both give the same result. Put simply, they indicate that, by a majority of five to three, the people of this country no longer regard homosexual practices by consenting adults in private as criminal. My Lords, that is to me a deeply encouraging thing.

I would recall to your Lordships the words of the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, on this subject in 1958 when the Wolfenden Report was published. He said: In my opinion, education and time are needed to bring people along to understand the Wolfenden Committee's point of view. I do not think we have yet with us a general sense of opinion which would regard … it as right to alter the criminal law in the sense suggested by the Committee. Again, these are the words of Mr. Henry Brooke when he was Home Secretary: This is a very important matter, but it is essentially a matter in which the Government must take note of the climate of public and Parliamentary opinion At the time, frankly, they seemed to me to be rather pusillanimous utterances, but all the same one saw the point. That point is now no longer valid. We in this House are no longer in the van of public opinion; we are in fact almost precisely with it.

This being so, what reason can there be for still delaying reform? Need any Party fear any more the risks of voting for reform? I hope your Lordships will not think me unduly cynical. I am not thinking of those in the other place who voted against Mr. Abse's Motion to introduce a Bill. All respect to them. It was a matter of conscience, and I admire them for registering their views, though I do not agree with them. I am thinking of those who abstained, and that was nearly half the House. I do not think they will need to do it again. But will those Members of the other place, in the light of the new circumstances, now have an opportunity to express their opinions, and on a full Bill and in a full debate?

My Lords, I appeal to the Government most earnestly to face the position, which is this: here we have a Bill for homosexual law reform based on the Wolfenden Report. It was approved by the House of Lords, the Upper House of Parliament, on Second Reading by a majority of nearly two to one. It was considered at great length in Committee and on Report, and amended in detail but in no way weakened. It had the approval of the senior ecclesiastics of the Established Church of England, and of other great and good men in your Lordships' House. Doctors, school masters and sociologists among your Lordships have spoken in favour of it. It has been regarded indulgently even by those news papers which in the past were most violently against reform. Last and newest, and most important of all perhaps, it has, seemingly, the support of the people.

These things being so, surely Her Majesty's Government are not going to ignore us altogether if today the Bill is passed. Surely they are not going to act as though this House had not given its opinion, and in the most forthright terms. After to-day's debate we shall in this Session have spent about twenty-seven hours on this subject, compared with twenty minutes in another place—and not even on a Bill—and during that time, I think, eighty-two speeches have been made in your Lordships' House. Will the Government not, if only as a courtesy, grant us the simple thing for which we ask—namely, time and facilities in the other place? They gave them, after all, to that other measure of social reform, the abolition of hanging, even though the opinion polls were two to one against abolition and the number of people actually hanged annually since the 1957 Act was passed have been under a dozen, whereas to-day we are talking in terms of hundreds of thousands. Will they not give us these same facilities, too? The fact that the Bill originates in this House does not necessarily make it a bad Bill. Indeed, technically it is unexceptionable, for it has been drafted by Parliamentary draftsmen.

My Lords, political impartiality on an issue of this kind is all very well, but if it means that the people's representatives are not to be given the chance to speak and vote on an important measure of social reform introduced in the form of a full Bill, that is no longer impartiality; it is prejudice. Speaking for myself only, it is not what I should expect from a Government which prides itself on its progressive attitude in matters of law reform.

If Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to give us this time and facilities, what then? Where do we go from here? In any case the Bill will have to be reintroduced in your Lordships' House; we shall have to go through this whole business again, stage by stage. I make no apologies about this; it is the only way to go about it, and I am determined to see this thing through. But I repeat, if once again your Lordships agree to reform and approve a Bill, and the Government are unwilling to help, then of necessity your Lordships' Bill will remain "kicking around" until someone in the other place chooses to pick it up; and that someone will need to be an honourable gentleman who in the ballot has been fortunate enough to draw a high number and who approves of reform. It will be a matter of luck. To me it seems a miserable way of legislating, but that is how it will be.

Again I ask the Government, most humbly: are they going to leave it like this? Are they going completely to ignore the decision of your Lordships' House? Will they not give us the assistance which, while in no way committing them politically, is essential for the furthering of social legislation required by your Lordships, and seemingly by the people. I think we have the right, and indeed the duty, to press for this. What on earth is the point of sitting here hour after hour, day after day, if at the end we are to be told that our labours were in vain; that while we have done our best, our endeavours have not been such as to merit serious attention. Finally, and for the last time, I ask the Government to face this issue now. Sooner or later, as we all know, reform is bound to come, and the Government under which it does come will have enlarged its place in history. Hundreds of thousands of men await the answer, some very good men, some very bad men, some like the rest of mankind, neither very good nor very bad. Can they not be given at least some hope? I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(The Earl Of Arran.)

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, in the long debates—82 hours I think my noble friend said—which have taken place on this issue in this House I have made only one brief intervention, and that was to venture to advise the House that the proper way of taking the opinion of this House was not on a meaningless Motion for Papers but by introducing a Bill which set out precisely the reform intended and upon which the House could vote on its merits.

After a good deal of "to-ing and froing" and a certain amount of backchat, that advice was accepted. I think that everybody agreed that it was the sensible course to take, and the Bill was introduced. There was a very extensive and informed debate upon the Second Reading, and the Bill obtained a large majority. I voted for the Bill and I should have been perfectly content, after my procedural intervention, to remain silent. Nearly everything that can be said for or against this Bill has been said more than once in these long debates, and Heaven knows! the last thing I want to do is to add repetition. We have, if I may say so with respect to the House, quite enough repetitious speeches made in this House. My sympathy often goes out, not to your Lordships, who after all do not have to stay and listen to them, because you can always go out, but most sincerely to the Clerks of the House and the Officials of the House who have no such soft option as is open to all of us to absent ourselves.

So far as the moral issue—and of course there is a grave moral issue involved in this Bill—is concerned, I found the speech which I heard from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York completely convincing, and I, as a good Yorkshireman, am prepared to take my morality from the Primate of my Northern Province. I must say that I do not think I should be equally prepared to accept without hesitation any guidance which was offered to me to-day by the Primate of the Southern Province of Canterbury. But so far as this subject is concerned I am certainly prepared to follow the Primate of York.

There is, however, one aspect, and one aspect only, of this Bill on which I can perhaps offer a word or two of worthwhile advice. We are all agreed, I think, that blackmail is perhaps the most revolting of crimes. We are all agreed—and it is about the only thing, it seems to me, on which noble Lords in all parts of the House are agreed—that the law on homosexuality, as it stands to-day, is a blackmailers' charter. That, I think, is common ground and common sentiment.

But I want to deal for a moment with one particular aspect. It so happens that for two years in the war I was responsible for the co-ordination of the whole of security, and that included supervision of all the Secret Services, espionage, counter-espionage and the like. Our security services in this country are quite first-class, and in recent years they have had, and deservedly had, the highest judicial tributes paid to them. It is fortunate that they are so good, for the forces they are up against are ubiquitous, unscrupulous and intelligent. I need not reveal any secrets, but your Lordships have read of trials where some wretched homosexual has been blackmailed into treason. He would not have become a spy but for that blackmail. The law as it exists to-day is not only a blackmailers' charter; it is, in my opinion, a spies' charter and an enemies' charter. I know I shall be told Well, yes, these unhappy criminals were no doubt blackmailed, but they would he even if you removed the taint of criminality by altering the law. Homesexuality between consenting males would no doubt no longer be criminal, but most of us would still regard it as a shocking thing."

I accept that, but I say this advisedly: I have not the least doubt that it is the criminality which makes the threat of blackmail effective. If it were not criminal blackmail would be much less used and much less effective. But assume that it is used. Assume that the enemy blackmails some unfortunate man and threatens him with exposure. If the taint of criminality has been removed the threatened official can go to his chief as he would if he were involved in some shocking entanglement with a woman, and make a clean breast of it. I think I know how a wise chief would act. He would certainly not condone, he would certainly discipline; but he would understand.

What I have said is based on such experience as I have. The Secret Services have to be silent Services; they cannot speak. But if they could, I do not think they would at all deny what I have been saying. So, in the interests of security, in our national interest, I venture to give your Lordships that additional reason for supporting this Bill.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I know the traditional kindness with which your Lordships' House greets maiden speakers, and I hope I do not presume on it too much by rising to speak on this controversial topic. But I have for some years been an advocate of the reform of the law such as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is trying to effect by this Bill, and that is my excuse for rising. So many admirable speeches have already been made, when the noble Earl moved for Papers and again on the Second Reading of the Bill, that there is little left in the way of general principle to say, but may I try and meet one objection which has been raised against the Bill? That objection is that by passing this Bill your Lordships' House will in some way be hastening the decline of moral standards in the country and even striking at the fabric of our society.

It is understandable that many people believe that the present laws against homosexuality in fact restrain it. But do they? We know all too little, I think, of the effect of legislation upon personal habits, and even less about the effect of personal habits upon society as a whole. At the beginning of this century many sincere people in America believed that alcoholism was an evil and that there ought to be temperance laws against it, and so prohibition was passed. The result of prohibition was greatly to increase drunkenness, and also it ushered in the classic age of the American gangster.

Again, our Victorian ancestors believed in sexual purity. They thought that sexual purity was vitally important for the good of society. Anyone who contravened the code, anyone who was, even if innocent, involved in a case in which sexual morality appeared to have been contravened, was subjected to social ostracism; and also they legislated, as we well know. Speaking as a social historian, I wonder whether they did not really defeat their own object. Leaving aside the misery which the Victorian divorce laws produced, Mr. Labouchere's Amendment had, I think, the effect of increasing interest in homosexuality, because the direct result of that Amendment was the famous trial of Oscar Wilde. That trial created a furore. A violent outburst occurred against homosexuality, and that, in turn, set up a reaction against the law, because there were people who thought that this brilliant, though self-indulgent, man had been persecuted, and there was possibly even a reaction in favour of his way of life. The Wilde trial made homosexuality and gave it glamour. If anything did, it created a cult. So I greatly doubt whether the legislation had the effect that it was expected to produce. Indeed, it may well have done something to make people feel that homosexuality seemed a heroic defiance of hypocrisy.

But still there may be many people who feel that though no law can deter criminals, it can express the horror and revulsion which society feels against acts of this kind. I am sure that when the noble Earl introduced his Bill most people thought that it was a highly courageous act because it flew in the face of public opinion. That it was a courageous act none of us, whatever our opinions, I am sure doubts. But he himself this afternoon has questioned whether he did fly much in the face of public opinion.

We have heard the evidence of the polls, and it is most striking that in the Gallup Poll, I think, 27 per cent. of the people, although they condemned these acts as immoral, nevertheless thought that no criminal proceedings should be brought against consenting adults; while 36 per cent. actually tolerated such acts and therefore were, of course, entirely opposed to criminal proceedings. On the whole, the Press is overwhelmingly in favour of this Bill. So are the majority of ecclesiastical authorities. But also I think there is evidence that the young are overwhelmingly in favour of this Bill. This is not a symptom of "beat" behaviour among the young; it is a symptom that on this moral issue they think that injustice is being done.

Those of us who teach in schools or universities have often heard discussions of this kind, and what strikes us is, I think, the unanimity of opinion which one hears on this matter. It is a unanimity which, as I say, springs from the sense of injustice. They perfectly understand that people will be morally indignant; what they do not understand is why this moral indignation should be transmuted into criminal law. I myself find, when I listen in to these discussions, that no longer do people place homosexuality in a kind of Gehenna below all other kinds of corrupt sexual behaviour. On the contrary, what people do is to make a distinction between corrupt heterosexual and corrupt homosexual acts, on the one hand, and distinguish them sharply from other kinds of sexual behaviour in which they see no reason for the law to intervene.

I have heard it said in discussions of this kind at the university that the present law is as absurd as a law distinguishing between legal and criminal love-play in the marriage bed. But in fact whatever the feelings, the reasons that the young give for their views, I do not think there can be any doubt that they overwhelmingly believe that the present law is bad. I submit that it is bad. It not only involves police spies, suicide, blackmail, and the bringing of stale prosecutions for offences of long ago; it also involves many curious anomalies, and some of these anomalies have been pointed out in the Schofield Report which was financed by the Home Office.

Three points in the Report strike me. The first is that homosexual acts in private are often far more severely penalised than those committed in public. The reason for this is that, under police interrogation, homosexuals will in fact admit to actions in private which the present law regards as graver than those of homosexuals who are caught in public. Thus the squalid are penalised much less severely than others. The Report also throws much doubt on a number of the prosecutions which are brought for homosexual acts committed in private. It suggests that there is a monotony of evidence, almost an identity of evidence, given by police officers—and, of course, in such cases the uncorroborated evidence of a police officer is often sufficient to convict. The Report suggests that there is something odd about the nature of the evidence given in these cases. Finally, the Report makes a distinction—a distinction, which it is extremely important to make, and which is often misunderstood by people who have not a great cognisance of this whole matter—between those men who commit offences against children (and, of course, we all agree that such men must be restrained) and homosexuals. Yet the law treats both with equal severity.

There is one last reason, a more philosophic reason, why I think the law is bad. It treats homosexuals as a category of people who are really beyond the pale, and it does not understand that they are made that way. This was never more poignantly and strikingly put than by the poet and scholar, A. E. Housman, who wrote a poem, I think after the trial of Oscar Wilde, which contains the line Oh, they're taking him to prison for the colour of his hair Homosexuals are people who, in a sense, have a different colour of hair. They are not sick. Among them are many brilliant men of the highest integrity; and history contains some pretty striking examples of this. Among them also, of course, are men who commit squalid acts.

This Bill is not sentimental; indeed, I think there is great misapprehension in some quarters as to what would happen if it became law. I mean by this that there would still be prosecutions for deplorable offences against boys; there would still be prosecutions for men who must satisfy their craving for excitement and danger, and hence commit indecent acts in public places. There would also be cases of blackmail, though, I think, far fewer of them. But what this Bill would do if it became law would he to bring compassion to over a million people; and not only compassion but justice. So if your Lordships pass this Bill it will, in my opinion, be in no way approving of homosexuality. What it will be doing is expressing its desire not to send men to prison "for the colour of their hair"

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships would wish me to express, on behalf of you all, congratulations to the last speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, on a quite brilliant and impressive maiden speech. The noble Lord has a distinguished military and academic career; but to-day, speaking as a social historian, he has given tremendous support from a depth of knowledge which those of us who are on his side welcome very much. I see that his pastime is listed as Mediterranean travel. I hope that he will do less of that in future and that he will be able to be in your Lordships' House more often so that we may have the benefit of his contributions.

At this point I am rather tempted to sit down, because Lord Annan has said a great many of the things I wanted to say; but I want to plead with the Government on two counts. On the Third Reading of the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said—and I echo his sentiments in full—that we shall look back one day and wonder why we did not do it before. Although this Bill may not command, perhaps, as much support in both Houses as that other Bill, I believe that in time the reform we are advocating in this Bill will come to be accepted as the normal law of the land. Indeed, in my view, as the nature of the problem becomes more and more openly recognised, homosexual law reform will go even further than we envisage to-day.

I am not going to reiterate the arguments that I have put forward on previous occasions, but I want to say to the Government, despite the fact that this Bill cannot become law in this Session, that I hope they will take note of what the House has done to-day in the vote which it has already given on Third Reading. I hope that we shall have an impressive vote if the Bill goes to a Division on the Motion, "That the Bill do now pass", so that the House will have shown twice in one week that it has voted, with a substantial majority, in favour of two measures of radical reform. I would plead with the Government, in the light of the evidence in this House, to give time for this measure in both Houses in the next Parliamentary Session. There are very good reasons for asking for this.

In the first place, I believe that this is now a competent measure. It is certainly worthy of a full debate in another place, and it embodies a number of modern and up-to-date ideas on homosexual law reform. Secondly, I believe that the Government would be well advised to occupy the time of another place with Private Members' Bills like this, instead of introducing highly controversial, and sometimes half-baked, measures such as we have seen in the past—that remark applies not to all of them, but to some. Perhaps in the coming Session a Bill of this sort might be given preference.

In the third place, a great deal of useful research has been and is being carried out on this subject, and it all points to the sort of law reform which is embodied in this measure. No one would claim that the homosexual problem is solved by passing a Bill of this sort, but modern research indicates that the problem will be far less intense, far more easily tackled, if we abolish, once and for all, the criminal stigma from homosexual practices in private by consenting adults. Like the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I was much impressed by Mr. Michael Schofield's book, Sociological Aspects of Homosexuality. I believe that this is a study which would make any opponent of reform who took the trouble to read the whole report sit up and take notice. It is a study which must be read by the police, by magistrates, and by judges before they consider the damage that can follow from wrong decisions in the courts. I think all those who are interested in this subject would do well to study this particular report, because it shows how a continuation of the law as it now stands is, in fact, doing damage to society.

Mr. Schofield sums up the situation by saying, first of all, that the development of the homosexual condition, and the form which it takes, may depend on the events in an individual's early life, but that it also depends—and this, I think, is vital—on the attitude which society takes to that condition. He makes a number of suggestions, such as a community education programme and so on, which might help to get rid of some of these ill-founded beliefs which many people hold at the moment, although these beliefs can be disproved by the sort of well-documented study made by Mr. Schofield. He has pointed out that the law can be the direct cause of homosexual behaviour; he has pointed out that the law offers no solution; he has pointed out how capricious the law is, and—as the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, said—how it protects the blackmailer, because the victim dare not go to the police.

I believe that it is almost impossible that intelligent human beings, faced with the Wolfenden Report and the serious studies which have been and are being made, can continue to believe that their opposition to law reform in this matter is well founded. And I believe that many have probably changed their minds in the course of these important debates which we have had over the past few months. Therefore I plead with the Government to give proper time for this measure in the coming months. I believe that in the next Session, when proper time is given, the Bill will be passed in both Houses of Parliament, and the Government will enhance a well-deserved reputation for reform in the field of humanity and sociology which is very dear to radical reformers in all Parties.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and to reinforce the appeal which the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has made to the Government to give time in another place for the consideration of this Bill. I am sure that I express the gratitude of many of your Lordships when I thank the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for wading through his correspondence, sticking to his guns and presenting this Bill as he has done this afternoon for a Third Reading. Bearing in mind the advice of the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, not to make repetitious speeches, I shall cut out any reference to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, in 1958, and will make no reference to the recent public opinion polls.

So I come to the second point which I wish to make—namely, that when a Bishop speaks in your Lordships' House on this subject he cannot be too careful to state the moral standpoint from which he approached the question. I believe that homosexual acts are wrong, for they misuse human organs for which the right use is intercourse within marriage between men and women. I am convinced that as fornication is always sinful, so homosexual acts are sins. But when circumstances are carefully weighed, it will be seen that there are degrees of culpability attached to these sins.

The chief point I want to make—and I shall not detain your Lordships long—. is "Back to Wolfenden". It is a little time since the particular points he made were mentioned in this House, and I would remind your Lordships that the Report argues that not all sins should be treated as crimes; not even adultery which can destroy a home and make children's lives miserable for years. As the law stands, neither fornication nor adultery is a crime, and I consider that homosexual acts between consenting adults should come into this category.

There is a further point which the Wolfenden Committeee made. It is pointed out that, though it was widely believed that homosexuality in the country had greatly increased during the century, this is not necessarily true. What is true is that homosexuality is more fully discussed, as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has mentioned, and discussion has become far more open since the Report was published. Your Lordships will remember that, after examining the extent of the problem, the Wolfenden Committee concluded that: homosexual behaviour is practised by a small minority of the population, and should be seen in proper perspective, neither ignored nor given a disproportionate amount of public attention. I would remind your Lordships that the Committee were specially concerned that the principles they enunciated on the function of the law should apply to those involved in homosexual behaviour no more and no less than to other persons.

The decisive argument in the Wolfenden Report is found in paragraph 61, and this immediately precedes the recommendation which is the substance of the Bill before your Lordships' House. In that paragraph it is stated that both society and the law ought to attach importance to individual freedom, and there must, therefore, be a realm of private morality and immorality which is not the law's concern. Wolfenden, in emphasising personal liberty of choice, is not condoning or encouraging private immorality, but laying on the individual adult the responsibility he should carry without the threat of legal punishment.

I turn to Table VI in Appendix I to the Report, which shows how the courts dealt with the 300 adult offenders convicted in the three years ending March, 1956, of offences committed in private with consenting adults. Of these 300, 181 were discharged, bound over or given a conditional discharge, put on probation or freed; 119 were imprisoned for periods ranging from six months or less to five years; one was dealt with as a mental defective. I have not seen any more recent figures, but even assuming some slight increase in the number of offences it is only a minute number of people who are involved, yet the consequences of a prison sentence can be devastating.

I suppose that many of your Lordships read a recent article in a Sunday paper by a former Member of another place who had just served a four-year sentence for a homosexual offence. He wrote a bitter article convinced that prisons neither deter nor reform, and that a sentence which involved actual close confinement for more than two years was judicial killing. If he had not written immediately after release from prison he might not have written in quite those terms, but having recently visited one of Her Majesty's prisons in my diocese I came away with a certain sense of shame that people should have to suffer certain sentences.

Finally, my Lords, in terms of numbers this Bill would effect only a very modest reform, but it would create, if passed, a new atmosphere in which some homosexuals most in need of help—and the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has reminded us of this—would feel free to co-operate with psychologists and priests and sociologists in providing data, and so finding better methods for dealing with their condition. I have done little more than cover ground which is familiar to us, but as I returned to the Wolfenden Report once again I reflected how well it had presented its case for reform. I should like to pay my tribute to my friend, Sir John Wolfenden, and his colleagues for their thorough investigation of the problem of homosexual offences.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, I voted for the Third Reading of this Bill on the general principle that I always understood that the law, as created by the intervention of Mr. Labouchère, was wrong. But I must confess, not knowing much about these things, that I was very much impressed by the wide extent of this evil, as shown by many speeches, including that by the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir. One thing was borne upon me, and that is that, whatever the law does, it is not a deterrent, and not being a deterrent I can see no reason for its existence. Deterrence could have been its only real use. It does not work. Therefore I think we are well advised to try to reform the law and make it accord with common sense and common justice.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should first of all like to associate myself with the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, on his powerful and impressive maiden speech. I do this with the greater pleasure because the noble Lord has long occupied a position of great distinction in the university in which I was myself born and brought up, and is about to occupy a position of equal distinction in the university of my adoption. Exactly what relationship that establishes between him and myself I am unable to say, but I know that it is one which I greatly value, just as we all tremendously value his presence in your Lordships' House.

My Lords, earlier in this week I found myself in disagreement with some of your Lordships on the subject of the death penalty, but I think that I can claim that, in spite of those disagreements, I was able to enter into the minds of those who took the opposite view to myself. I appreciated that they were afraid that the consequence of abolishing the last relics of the death penalty in this country might be that more innocent people's lives would be endangered. This is an argument which I can both understand and respect. I took no part in the Second Reading of the present Bill, but I did come here for it and I did listen very closely in the hope that I would be able to claim to have got inside the minds of the opponents of this Bill. I am afraid I have to confess that I have not been successful in that enterprise. I listened to a number of disquisitions of a philosophical and a moral character, and I did not understand them. I listened also to discriminations made by noble Lords between one form of abnormal intercourse and another, and I was even more completely puzzled. I could only conclude that this was a queer form of physical geography with which I was unacquainted.

I can understand that many noble Lords, as also do many outside this House, view these practices with disgust, but what I cannot understand is that this disgust, which is a personal and private emotion, should lead them to impose, and to wish to continue the imposition of, extremely heavy penalties (and the examples quoted in this House this afternoon are a reminder of how heavy those penalties are) upon people who indulge in these practices in private. By definition, no noble Lord, and no one outside this House, will, as a result of this Bill, be exposed to the spectacle of practices which cause him disgust. This Bill is confined to activities which are conducted in private, and it can therefore be only the imagination of your Lordships which will be disturbed by them,

My Lords, there is much misery in the world. Some of it is inevitable, at least in the present state of knowledge, and much of it—sometimes, one fears, most of it—is man-made. If this Bill passes into law—it cannot pass this Session, but it might, if reintroduced, pass next Session—a by no mean negligible part of that misery will he relieved. My only regret is that urgent personal business may prevent my remaining to record my small contribution in that direction, but I have confidence that your Lordships will not want to miss an opportunity of relieving the misery of even half a million or a million people, your fellow countrymen, when the opportunity offers.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I have no wish to say more than a very few words because I had the opportunity of saying a good deal that was in my mind on the Second Reading, but there are one or two things I feel I ought to say because there are still misconceptions, if not in this House then outside it, about the effects of this Bill. First, I would emphasise, as someone who, after all, has been a teacher for over thirty years, that I am naturally concerned with the well-being of young people. I ought to be. The well-being of young people is absolutely safeguarded by this Bill, and that point has got to be emphasised again and again, inside and outside this House.

In looking back over the debates that we have had in this House, and trying to do what the noble Baroness has just described—justice to those with whom one disagrees—it seems to me that there are four simple points that we must have in our minds as the campaign for this reform goes on, as I hope it will go on. First, we have got to realise that the homosexual condition is a very complex one, and that there is much research to be done upon it. The only time I was tempted to disagree with, if I may say so, the admirable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, was when he said that homosexuality was not an illness. Sometimes it is not, but sometimes it is. It is a very complex and mixed phenomenon. We do not know, for example, how many forms are susceptible to psychiatric treatment, but what we do know is that many homosexuals can be helped to adapt themselves to normal life; and simply to make their behaviour a criminal offence is the last way to see, first, that they ask for such help and, secondly, that they get it.

To incarcerate in an all-male prison a man who is a homosexual is an act which goes beyond' the limits of folly and reaches those of barbarity. Of course, many homosexuals are depraved and wicked men against whom society must protect itself. Of course they are. So are many heterosexuals. But there are many who are not, and our first duty, surely, is to decide whether we shall help them to come to terms with an abnormality which is not of their choosing—terms which will corrupt no other person, terms which will offend no public decency—or whether we shall add to the shadow which dominates their lives the fear and the stigma of criminality.

Secondly, our attitude to sexual offences is so inconsistent that it is difficult to believe that any rational defence is possible. Lesbianism is outside the criminal law; fornication and adultery are outside the criminal law; yet homosexual acts between consenting males are within it. Why? Is there any reason why we should be guilty of an inconsistency of this sort? I do not wish to argue the fascinating philosophical issue as to wether or not our disapproval of some immoral acts that do offend against other people should or should not be signalised by making them illegal, but I would remind your Lordships that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Devlin, who defends with great eloquence the position that private immorality should in certain circumstances be considered actually criminal, has now come round to the conclusion as regards the subject we are discussing—homosexual acts between consenting adult males—that we have drawn the line wrong between the private and the public act, and that the time has come for a revision of the law. One of the most impressive things that has been brought to light by this series of debates was the letter which appeared in The Times, signed by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Devlin, and the noble Lord, Lord Robbins.

Thirdly, if it is the function of the law to protect the community and the individual from the spread of crime, then it is abundantly clear, and increasingly clear as we discuss these problems, that the present law on homosexuality is failing, for it is itself a cause of crime. I would ask those who feel comprehensible and strong repugnance to homosexuality, as many of us do in this House, to ask whether they do not feel a repugnance almost as great towards blackmail. We all know, and have been reminded to-day by the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, that there is probably nothing which puts a stronger weapon into the hands of the blackmailer than the present laws on homosexuality. As I said when I spoke on this subject last time, one of the things which have impressed me most was that one of the most respected elder statesmen in this Chamber should have said that, all other arguments aside, if there existed no other argument, he would be in favour of reform of the law on the ground of national security because of this blackmail element. Nothing in the series of debates has given me greater pleasure than to hear that elder statesman, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, get up and say to-day, with all the force at his command, what he said to me in private earlier. In other words, however much repugnance we feel, the present law is no good.

Lastly, my Lords, may I say a word about the argument based on public opinion? It has, of course, often been claimed that the feelings of the vast majority of ordinary men and women are so strong that it would be wrong to flout them. I believe that that argument will continue to be used, in spite of the results of the public opinion polls to which the noble Earl, Lord Arran, drew our attention. There is a certain strength in that argument, that the law cannot be too remote from what most citizens believe right. He has told us that on this public opinion was changing; and no doubt that is right. But even if it were not, I should still say that we here in this House should support the Bill. For if we in this House are not able and willing to be a little more rational, a little more knowledgeable, even a little more humane, than the majority of people, what is our justification for existence? There, it seems to me, is a straightforward example of that principle.

Do not let us forget that this highly technical aspect of human behaviour—for that is what it is—was argued and considered by a highly competent Committee under a Chairman distinguished for sense and wisdom. We are not dealing with what some of our opponents would call "the intuition of cranks and sentimentalists"; we are dealing with the sober opinions of responsible men and women who have heard and sifted a great mass of evidence. It is, I believe, our duty to show that this House, at any rate, approaches this issue fortified by the reason and the responsibility of the Wolfenden Report. And if reason and responsibility find themselves supported by compassion, as in fact they so often are, then let us rejoice the more.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage in the debate and in the light of what has been said, and said so effectively, I will undertake not to repeat or recapitulate arguments already presented, and I hope that this short speech will fulfil that intention. I should like, in the first instance, to add my voice to the able voices of those who have already spoken appealing to the other place that this Bill, or one very much like it, should have precedence and should be carried into effect. I hope that that will be done.

There are, I think, certain areas in which new evidence can be adduced in support of the claim which is substantially made that public opinion has moved in favour of the general propositions to which we are addressing ourselves. Already most weighty and profound evidence has been given by the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelates of the Church of England as to their state of mind and conviction, and the state of mind of those whom they represent. So far as I remember, nothing has been said about the Nonconformist conscience. Some of your Lordships may feel that there is a simple reason for this: that the said Nonconformist conscience has long since gone into liquidation and has become almost completely gaseous. This is a harsh and unrealistic judgment. There is a great deal more variety in what was more totalitarian in the days of men like Hugh Price-Hughes and Dr. Clifford and there has been a great deal of movement of thought. But I deemed it sufficiently important to think that your Lordships' House would like to know something of what can be discovered by some little research as to the opinions and convictions of the Free Churches in this country.

I begin, not unnaturally, with the Methodist Church, and only strict attention to facts persuades me that this is, of course, the most important of the contributions that can be made from the Free Churches. In the Methodist Conference of 1958 the following resolution was presented by the Christian Citizenship Department and was carried unanimously: The Department agrees with the Recommendation that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults be no longer a criminal offence. We considered with the utmost care the arguments of those who oppose this Recommendation and who fear that the removal of the ban of illegality would lead to an increase in homosexual behaviour. We believe that this possibility has been exaggerated and that there are weighty reasons why this suggested alteration in the law should be accepted. Such alteration would remove the anomaly which discriminates between male and female homosexuals; it would mitigate the evil practice of blackmail; and we believe it would help towards the creation of a healthier attitude on sex questions generally That was in 1958; and the Report of the General Secretary of the Congregational Union, given to me as authoritative, very largely supports this position. His words are that the Congregational Church is in general support of the principles expressed in the Wolfenden Report and explicit in this Bill. I wish I could say that the Baptists had yet seen as much light as has been granted to some of the other Free Churches in this regard, but they too are certainly on the move and would corroborate, if corroboration is necessary, the suggestion that there has been a vast and appreciable movement of thought and conviction towards the general substance of this Bill.

It may be that those of you who are not attached to the Free Churches will feel that this is an inconsiderable sort of contribution. I do not believe that; and I believe that it gives considerable support to the quality of leadership which belongs to this particular Bill. It is obvious that nothing can be led if it is already stationary and immovable. If there is this current of movement, this flux of change, then if it is indubitably, as the evidence suggests, in the direction of amelioration of this law and the taking away of the taint of criminality, particularly in respect of homosexual practices by consenting adults in private, then there is added reason to think that, if this Bill goes through, whatever may be its chances of enactment, it will fecundate a process that is already highly overdue and, at the same time, of paramount importance.

I should like, in the second place, to say something, very briefly, on two of the underlying principles of this Bill. One is its restriction of the area in which criminality can be regarded as operative: its recognition that intrusiveness into private behaviour—however repulsive that private behaviour may appear to be although not necessarily criminal—is an intrusion that is not justified. In the brief time I have been in your Lordships' House I have listened with amazement, faint yet pursuing, and with almost a sense of awe, to the learned as well as noble Lords who have conducted inquiries into intricate matters of law. I am sure they came to their conclusion after protracted and intense study over a long period of years, but your Lordships will perhaps forgive me if it sometimes suggests itself to me that noble Lords walk with an almost nonchalant ease in the realms of moral theology, as if this particular area of human inquiry were part of the light that lightens every man coming into the world. In my judgment that is not so, and if this particular Bill breaks down some of the autocratic prejudices as to what is criminal and what is not, I hope that it will go even further and assault some of the citadels of what is regarded as sinful, though this may be going far beyond the actual content of this Bill. I should myself not feel nearly so much ease and confidence in pronouncing whether certain homosexual practices are necessarily sinful.

This may, of course, cause a great deal of alarm, but I think it is the kind of question which has to be carefully analysed over a long period. Having among my friends many homosexuals, I know that they are in error and unnatural, and I cannot comprehend their motives or enter into the psychological reactions that are theirs, but at the same time I am completely convinced that within the light of what seems to them to be the world in which they have found themselves and the apparatus of thought and action with which they have been endowed, it would be totally wrong to think of their affections—as the world has hither-to apparently has thought of them—even if there is some physical attachment to them, as being evil. There is a greater need than ever, I think, for the kind of compassion to which we have been invited to listen already to-day. If this Bill unleashes the kind of opportunities for which many people have long been waiting, and is not in any sense a Bill that will ignore young people, then I, for one, believe it will have done a great deal to create a better climate in which we may make our assessment of this highly difficult and highly dangerous problem.

The last thing I would say is this. I was much moved by what the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, had to say about prisoners. You will allow me this comment. For 25 years I was a visiting chaplain, on behalf of the Nonconformists, to Pentonville Prison. Your Lordships will know that Pentonville is no ordinary prison. You cannot be convicted and go straight to Pentonville; you have to go elsewhere and work your way up to Pentonville—a kind of postgraduate course in crime. I know of nothing more heartrending than the experience of trying to tend and comfort homosexuals there, who were in the same condition, I think, as would be an alcoholic given board and lodging in a public house. They were exposed to intolerable strains and committed to all kinds of squalor, hatred and temptation, and sheer, absolute grief and misery. I believe that if this Bill can offer hope to even one of those such, it will be amply justified, and therefore I hope that it will go through.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have recently been reading the Hansard reports of earlier stages of this Bill, and there is one point in particular which, it seems to me, even though it has not been altogether forgotten has been perhaps insufficiently stressed; and I am particularly glad that now I have an opportunity to take up a few moments of your Lordships' time upon it in view of the remarks we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Soper. Briefly, it is a distinction, a vital distinction, because I think it refers not only to the particular matters which we are talking about this afternoon but also to the whole purpose and raison d'être of your Lordships' House. It is the distinction between sin and crime.

Is the homosexual act in fact a sin? Is it a crime? Is it both? Is it a sin, like adultery and fornication, without being a crime? Is it, like civil trespass or parking your car in the wrong place, a crime without being a sin, or is it, like murder, both? Far be it from me to venture into the realms of moral theology. Far be it from me, in the presence of the most reverend Primate and other right reverend Prelates to pontificate in any way on the subject of sin, particularly as I believe that sin is a matter for the individual conscience, and I see no reason way your Lordships should be in the slightest degree interested in my ideas on the subject. But when it comes to crime, I think we are on very different ground; because crime is a matter which obviously, by definition, concerns us all.

I looked up the meaning of "crime" in the dictionary this morning. It is defined as an act which is prejudicial to public welfare. My Lords, can the homosexual act between consenting male adults in private be considered to be prejudicial to the public welfare? Surely it cannot. Certain homosexual acts could by all means be so considered and should be. Acts which involve the corruption of a minor below the age of consent; acts which involve outraging public decency. These, of course, are naturally injurious to the public welfare. But it is not the homosexual nature of these acts which makes them so injurious. Such acts are equally to be condemned when committed by heterosexuals, and indeed equally and very rightly are condemned. We are therefore left with the inescapable conclusion that homosexuality in itself may or may not be a sin, but it is certainly not a crime. The fact remains that it is considered as a crime and indeed as an extremely serious one in the Law of England.

This being the case, we are left with two alternatives, one or other of which is inescapable. On the one hand, we can accept that Parliament of this country is a body not only of legislators but of moralists, keepers of the public conscience and indeed the private conscience, from whom virtually no aspect of human behaviour, public or private, is immune. This, to me, is ugly, evil, totalitarian and Calvinistic in the worst sense of the word and intolerable to the extreme. If carried to the extreme it would, in fact, mean not only the end of all the liberties which we have upheld, developed and fought for for so long; it would also land us in a state of affairs in which man could not even call his conscience his own. If we do not accept this, and I for one do not, we have only one possible alternative: we can reject the existing legislation as being what it undoubtedly is, unwarranted and a monstrous trespass on the private affairs of human beings. If we do that, I think we can only do what I unhesitatingly and gladly do, which is support, with all the sincerity and all the warmth and vigour I may command, the Bill which is before us this afternoon.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, once again we have had a very interesting debate and I do not intend to take up much of your Lordships' time, but there must obviously be a certain amount of repetition in the various debates that we have had during the summer and to-day. But I should like to pay a little tribute to the noble Earl who introduced this Bill. I always read the Evening News on Wednesdays even though I do not always read the Evening News on other days of the week. About a week ago the noble Earl had a little paragraph—"William again". For those who do not read the Evening News, that means the Bill. It said: Quite apart from having to make my usual rotten speech, I wonder even if I am doing right or wrong" I think that he calls his speech by the wrong name. It means that there is a doubt in the noble Earl's mind. And there is a doubt in the minds of many other people.

If a homosexual act in private between males over twenty-one becomes legal, that must encourage people to do it. A young man thinks that if he waits until he is twenty-one, then everything will be all right. If this House and perhaps another place—though I do not prophesy about what they will do in another Session—changes a law of this country which has stood for 432 years, that must show the inhabitants that the legislators take a view in favour of making this practice legal, and I am very worried indeed about the effect it will have on young people.

We have heard this afternoon of how the homosexual is born and not made. We have heard previously the views of eminent doctors like the noble Lord, Lord Brain. I have discussed this matter with doctors who are not Members of your Lordships' House, and I know that some people incline to the view that people are either born homosexual or not. In other words, it is a question of either black or white. But I am told that there are a good many greys as well. There are many people who can be deterred from the practice. As the noble Lord, Lord Brain, said, it is like the spectrum of the rainbow from violet to red. In the middle of the spectrum there are other shades.

To go back even further than 432 years, it is said in Leviticus XX, 13: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. That was the view in those days. I realise that as the world develops, views change. We have had speeches in your Lordships' House from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and from several right reverend Prelates in favour of this Bill, but I am assured by several Bishops whom I know that the Bishops are not unanimous, any more than this House of Peers or the public are unanimous. But it happens that the Bishops who have come to these debates are all on the other side and have expressed themselves in favour of this Bill. On May 12, the most reverend Primate said: I believe that homosexual acts are always wrong in the sense that they use in a wrong way human organs for which the right use is intercourse between men and women within marriage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 266 (No. 73), col. 80.] Naturally, I agree with that; but the most reverend Primate is in favour of this Bill. No doubt he feels that the deterrent—or, as we may call it, the criminal side of it—does not help to prevent homosexuality. But some of us think that it does so. I do not wish to introduce another topic, but the most reverend Primate is in the headlines at the moment because he believes in a deterrent in another way—and of course, he is entitled to that view—in another part of the world.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is going to speak to your Lordships on a totally different matter, I may be tempted to do the same and start by asking that if the noble Lord refers to my remarks, will he please do so accurately. I recognise no sort of accuracy in the reference he has just made. But perhaps it would be helpful if he returned to the subject before your Lordships.


My Lords, I was only saying that presumably the most reverend Primate did believe in a certain other deterrent, because he made certain remarks to that effect, but in this case he does not believe in a deterrent. I personally do believe in deterrents, and I believe in this one very much. Many members of the public and ordinary members of the Church of England do not agree with the remarks made by the most reverend Primate. I feel that if this Bill eventually passes both Houses, the effect will not be at all good. I hope that when the time conies for us to express our opinion on this Bill, we shall have a good number of "Not-Contents".

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to speak briefly, because I am sure that your Lordships all feel that everything that could have been said on this subject has been said. I would start by reiterating that the number of homosexuals in the community—a statement which I think has not been challenged—is something between 500,000 and 1 million people. From what we know of the subject, we know it is impossible to think of these people as leading a life of total abstinence. As was pointed out in previous debates, this is the largest criminal class in the community. There is no indication that any particular income or social group is any more likely to be homosexual than any other group, except perhaps that those who have enjoyed the advantages of a public school education may be a little more vulnerable.

What does this mean? It means that one out of 25 male doctors, lawyers, architects or members of any male group that you like to think of are likely to be homosexual and are likely to be committing criminal offences. Thank Heavens that the law finds it impossible to catch them! If they could be caught, we should be sending to prison some of the most highly intelligent and able people in this land.

I am convinced that if we do not do anything about this issue, the younger generation certainly will do so. This brings me to the problem of youth and the opinion of youth, which has up to a point been admirably expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. Although I am half way through the allotted span, perhaps, in your Lordships' House, I can speak as a relatively young man. In the previous debates a number of your Lordships who opposed this Bill were particularly concerned about the youth of this country. As a teacher in an institution of further education I have a great deal to do with students who are in their late 'teens and early twenties. There is absolutely no doubt that the intelligent youth of to-day are entirely in favour of reform. For your Lordships' information, over the last three or four years, there have been debates in nearly all the leading universities and the motion for reform has never been defeated. In your Lordships' House on May 24, the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, said that he would not like to take the chair at the anniversary celebration of the Boys' Brigade if he had not registered his protest against this Bill. My position, I am afraid, is exactly the opposite. I should not wish to face my students unless I voted for reform in this matter.

I have listened to the previous debates and have read them in Hansard, and I have taken particular care to try to understand the arguments against reform. The distinctions between what I believe is called gross indecency and sodomy were expressed with extreme eloquence, but I can only say that these arguments, despite the fact that I have tried to understand them, make absolutely no sense to me at all. I support wholeheartedly the most reverend Primate's views on this subject. What piece of the anatomy is to be put where by consenting adults in private seems to me to be their own affair. We have now had the evidence of the Gallup Poll, and to-day we have another indication of public opinion. I sincerely hope that your Lordships' House will pass this Bill, and show this country that we are more in tune with the wishes of the majority than their elected representatives.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, I must ask for your Lordships' indulgence. This is the third debate in your Lordships' House which I have attended in order to say something, but my nerve has failed me in view of the number of better qualified speakers and the pressure of time. I am tempted to say nothing, and I will detain your Lordships for, I hope, not more than four minutes. I was partly stimulated to speak at all by the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that in his opinion the view of the Nonconformist conscience has not yet been heard. My feeling is rather different. My feeling is that the view of the Conformist conscience has not been heard, and, with great respect to the rights of the individual conscience, I do not think a single quotation from Leviticus by any Member of this House constitutes that.

What we are waiting to hear is an authoritative view repeated again, because I am sure it would be the same, from the Benches opposite by the most reverend Primate. But may I, as a Back Bencher and a layman, who is old-fashioned enough to be a traditional professing Christian, very briefly and quickly tell your Lordships what to me was the most effective argument I have yet heard against this Bill? (I may say in passing that this is the only debate I have ever attended in which there appeared to be no Division during the debate, but a Division before it, which I nearly missed by being late.) In an earlier debate the argument which I thought most effective against the noble Earl's Bill—and I voted in favour of the Bill each time—was not given in words; it was a personality; and it may shock the more progressive Members of your Lordships' House if I say it was the person of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. He did not attempt to argue, but he put his view extremely clearly and in a much shorter way that I am able to do. I am speaking without the book, and I hope it is not out of order, because I shall say nothing derogatory about the noble and gallant Viscount. He said that in his opinion, in which he asked us to join, the business of your Lordships' House is to fight the Devil and all his works. I am old-fashioned enough to agree entirely with what he said, in so far as it means that the duty in private life of every Member of this House, or indeed any other House, is this—whether he is old-fashioned enough to believe in a personal devil (as did, apparently, the Founder of Christianity) or whether he prefers to call it a force not ourselves making for unrighteousness (and preferably not to be mentioned in politics except in regard to the other side, which seems a longer way of saying it). Whatever one's view about the Devil is in private life, I am entirely on the side of the noble and gallant Field Marshal.

But, as has been pointed out in some excellent speeches—particularly, I think, that of the noble Viscount, Lord Norwich—this is a debate about the difference between sins and crimes. At the risk of going on for one or two minutes more than my allotted span (which is an expression that has been used), I should like to say that sin is not only a matter of what one thinks it to be oneself. There has been a traditional view—of course, there are innumerable sins—that seven sins are worse than others. I am comforted—in case I should be thought too superstitious for mentioning it—because I found that view rather surprisingly put, quite unconsciously of course, in the only book I have ever read defending high-pressure advertising, I believe written by two Americans, on the ground that high-pressure advertising, whatever it did, could not be wrong, because it appealed, as was clearly shown in the book, to seven Primary instincts in mankind; and these were, if I remember them rightly, Pride, Envy, something between Hatred and Cruelty, Lust, Avarice, Sloth and Greed. It would be inappropriate here to go into these in detail, and I would only ask your Lordships this question. How many of those sins, if we take only them—and I am sure your Lordships would not want me to consider even seven thousand of the seven million other sins which doubtless exist—how many of those Seven Deadly Sins are, in fact, punishable by imprisonment, even on summary conviction? All of them, like many excellent actions of kindness, can give rise to crimes. I think I am right in saying, though I am not a lawyer, that you can no more prosecute for pride than you can prosecute for trespass. I know that notices to trespassers are put up saying that they can be prosecuted, but that is because such notices are a more effective deterrent than a statement that the nearest treatment for snakebite is a long way away. My point is that trespass is at least a civil offence whereas pride is an uncivil offence.

You cannot prosecute for envy. I should be doubtful if you could prosecute for cruelty unless it is cruelty to animals in certain specific terms or cruelty to children—if you translate the Latin Ira as cruelty. If it means malice or hatred in the heart, you cannot. That brings us to avarice. I think it would be a very bold politician who, in the middle of a campaign urging us to save—quite apart from the views that he might have on General de Gaulle and the gold standard—would actually suggest prosecuting (as we have not prosecuted, at any rate since the laws against usuary were repealed) for avarice. That leaves us with the three what I might call fleshly sins, which if I remember rightly are Sloth, Lust and Greed, with only one of which we are concerned. Sloth is very difficult to prosecute and I have always thought that the instruction in the Bible: Go to the ant, thou sluggard shows the difficulty very clearly. To give to a man who will not get up and do anything the advice to get up and go to an ant and learn its language seems to me to be a confession of failure. Sloth I think we can say is out.

As to greed, we have already had one small part of that sin mentioned, which is drunkenness. But I would submit that that is a very small part, bearing much the same relation to the past as certain corrupt sexual or homosexual offences or pleasures bear to the rest of sexual activity. If it be said by a cynic that political Parties, as well as having patron saints, have their patron vices, I suppose it could be said, as I am sure it would not be, that greed, or hanging on to what one has, might be the besetting temptation of one Party, and lust—that is to say, wanting to go a great deal too far and have fun all round—that of another Party. I am not of course, suggesting that the Liberal Party could possibly suffer from any sins, except possibly my own long-windedness.

In order not to keep your Lordships, therefore, I would only repeat that the only sin we are dealing with now is lust, and the question is: What other forms or expressions of lust other than homosexual lust are prosecuted? That is the point, and one which we have heard discussed in your Lordships' House by people who know a great deal more about it than I do. On the other hand, I can claim some knowledge of sin. As a criminal, I admit that I am extremely ineffective, although possibly like others of your Lordships, I have not entirely escaped parking offences. That seems to me to be the only argument of the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. And if we, as a legislative body, were to fight the Devil and all his works, it would take a great deal longer than I have already taken, in a Session which is already too crowded.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships' House has again shown itself to be in favour of reform of the law relating to homosexuality. We have discussed this subject seriously, at length and in great detail, and the majority in favour of this Bill on Second Reading was a large one. Since then, as the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has pointed out to us, two opinion polls have indicated that most people in this country do not regard homosexuality as a criminal offence. However, it is the duty of the police to put the law into effect. The continuation of a law which is widely held to be unjust can do nothing but harm. Not only will it harm those sexual offenders who are sometimes regarded as victims of persecution, but it will also harm the reputation of the police and of the law itself. It is, therefore, with a sense of urgency that I express the hone that your Lordships will support this Bill and that time will be found to discuss a similar measure in another place.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, although it is academic at this stage of the proceedings relating to this Bill, it is proper to emphasise what your Lordships already know: that is, that the Bill applies only to England and Wales and does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland. As for Scotland, this is not the occasion for any reference to the differences between the legal systems of our two countries and their bearing on this subject, particularly on the subject of blackmail, but I would say that, had the Bill applied to Scotland, the debates might have assumed a somewhat different pattern from what they have done in this House.

I disagree emphatically with the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, that this Bill safeguards the well-being of young people. As a father and a grandfather, I take the contrary view. At the same time, I do not say that the law does not need revision, but I say that this Bill is the wrong way to do it. As to the Nonconformist opinion which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, mentioned, it is fair to remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, referred to the attitude of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in the debate in May (I think it was) on the noble Earl's Motion for Papers. I would remind your Lordships that the General Assembly did not support the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee and in fact took the view which was expressed by Mr. Adair in his Minority Report. I also take that view, and I would say that I, for one, propose to vote against this Bill if there is a Division at the end of this debate.


My Lords, may I make one further brief intervention? The noble Lord is entirely right in what he said. I think it was on the original Motion that the General Assembly turned down the recommendation of both the—


Order, order!

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, as a supporter of the Bill throughout the debates, I have listened with respect to the noble Lords who have opposed it, and in particular I have thought again and again about the cogency of two arguments which have been put forward. If those arguments were cogent, they would carry considerable weight with me in the scales. The first argument has been that, as a result of the passing of this Bill, there would be given to adults an encouragement to practise homosexual acts, and that that encouragement would have a depraving effect upon the morality of the country. The second argument has been that the passing of this Bill would encourage young people to think that, because homosexual acts between adults were no longer criminal, therefore these acts could not really be so bad after all, and thus encouragement would be given to them.

Take the first point. I do not believe that the argument against the Bill is really cogent. I attach importance to some of the clauses which were added to the Bill—clauses of a protective kind—but I attach still more importance to the evidence given a good many times during our debates by noble Lords, some on these Benches and some on other Benches, with considerable experience of helping people: the evidence that the present law hinders men in difficulty from being helped and saved from those difficulties. It was stated several times in opposition to this Bill that if a man wants to avoid blackmail the thing for him to do is not to commit the offence for which he can be blackmailed. But I did not think, and I do not think, that to say that is at all helpful. It is no use saying to a man of homosexual tendencies, "Stop having homosexual tendencies" It is no use saying to a man who is tempted to homosexual acts, "Do not be tempted to homosexual acts, and then you will not be blackmailed" What matters is that such people should be more accessible to the means available to help them; and the evidence is, I believe, overwhelmingly strong that the present law makes it difficult or impossible for many to make themselves accessible to those forces of grace which would help them.

Secondly, there is the argument about young people: about how a change in the law will encourage them to think that homosexual behaviour cannot, after all, be so bad. I believe that the law should protect young people. The law does protect young people, and I believe that the present Bill, if it is carried, has in some respects increased the protection which the law will give to young people. But if the law is to protect and help young people, it must be a law that wins their respect as being just. I think that the respect of young people for the law, and the morality which it tries to uphold, is at present hindered by the feeling of young people that the law is really unjust. More still, young people are going to be moral if we present to them a version of morality which is Christian and rational, which can win their respect, and is not a kind of lopsided presentation of morality.

My support of this Bill has been increased by hearing, among those who have opposed it during these debates, what I can only call a really lopsided presentation of morality—a presentation which quotes the Old Testament, which takes the line that sexual sins are apparently the worst of all sins, and that homosexual sins are invariably the worst sort of sins among sexual sins. I think that such a presentation of morality is lopsided and is going to be rejected by the people of the new generation, who need a better presentation of morality to win their respect and admiration.

The word "abominable" came into our debates rather as a key word. I agree that the acts which we have been discussing are abominable acts, but many other things also are abominable, and as the Old Testament has figured a good deal in the debates I make no apology for turning to the other Testament. I do not find in the teaching of Christ any use of the word "abominable" in classifying sins, but I do find a passage in which a term very near to "abominable" is used; namely, "sins which defile a man". Nothing could be more abominable than those. What are they? I use the best modern translation which know: Those acts of fornication, theft, murder, adultery, ruthless greed, malice, fraud, envy, slander, arrogance. Those are the abominable sins which in the teaching of the Founder of Christianity defile a man. Some of those sins are sexual, some of them are not sexual; among the sexual sins there is not apparently an isolation of homosexuality as being more cardinally sinful than are the others. I believe that it is a presentation of morality, balanced, Christian and rational, that can win the respect and the allegiance of the younger generation, hard task though it is. I believe that the law can play some part in the upholding of that morality, but it must be a law which young people are going to respect as being a just one.

So, my Lords, the effect of these long debates has been to make me more rather than less anxious to see the Wolfenden reforms on this matter carried into law, and I hope that in the next Session of Parliament Her Majesty's Government will help and facilitate the process. Meanwhile I am among those who hold my noble friend Lord Arran in great honour for his initiative in this matter, and by the passing of this Bill I believe that your Lordships will be writing an honourable chapter in the pages of your Lordships' House.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House has listened with interest to the speech which the most reverend Primate has just made. He has said that the more he has listened to the debates on this Bill the more convinced he has become in favour of it. The curious thing is that listening to the debates on this Bill has driven me in exactly the opposite direction; and I think I can claim to he almost one of those to whom the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, might have extended some sympathy earlier this afternoon when he sympathised with those who had listened to all our debates on this subject, because I think I have heard nearly every word. I have heard every word to-day, except for a few words of the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington, when I was absent for a few moments.

My Lords, what have we seen? We have heard to-day a repetition of arguments which have been advanced before, seldom anything fresh, even from the most reverend Primate. I fear that it is not very likely that anything I say will be so very fresh, but at least I will try to keep my remarks to the narrowest possible compass. Having listened to these debates, I have been struck by one thing: on each occasion this Bill has come before us, on Second Reading and again to-day, we have been debating not whether this Bill should pass but whether there should be any change in the law relating to homosexuality. It was not until my noble friend Lord Ferrier spoke that there was any reference to the Bill, except for some entirely inaccurate references made by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, to which I will refer later.

The noble Earl, Lord Arran, if I may summarise his speech, to which I listened with great interest, said nothing about the Bill. He expressed his doubts and his searchings of conscience as to whether he would raise it again, and he has moved this Motion, "That the Bill do now pass". That is rather curious, because he is asking us to pass a Bill when he himself said he recognised that it had no chance whatever of passing into an Act.


My Lords, I did not say that.


My Lords, the noble Earl began his speech by saying that there was no hope of its being enacted this Session.


Yes; this Session.


My Lords, this Bill is the Bill I am talking about; this Bill has no chance whatever of being enacted this Session, and that is what the noble Earl said. We ought not to be engaging simply in a propaganda exercise, yet what we are asked to do is to pass this Bill when the noble Earl who asked us to do that started by saying that it has no hope of being enacted this Session.

One appreciates from his speech why the noble Earl has asked your Lordships to spend the whole of this day discussing this unsavoury subject yet once again. It is because he is frightened that, unless it is continually discussed and ventilated, in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, it will, to use his own words, "go off the boil". If the Motion had dealt with the question, "Should the law relating to homosexuality be amended?" I, for one, do not mind saying that I should have voted in support of it. I gave some indication of that in the course of my Second Reading speech. But what I am concerned about is what this Bill proposes by way of reform. We have heard many speeches from the Benches opposite, from supporters of this Bill to-day, saying how necessary it is that the law should be reformed. Not one speaker has devoted his speech to the particular changes made by this Bill, and that I should like to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, in a speech to which I listened with the greatest interest, made a reference to the Labouchere Amendment, and said that he thought the effect of that Amendment had been quite contrary (I hope I have his words right) to that intended. I found some difficulty in knowing what was the intention which lay behind that Amendment, because it was never debated in Parliament. There is no report of any discussion at all. It may be that this particular Amendment had a bad effect—I do not know: views on that may change. But what I do think cannot be justified is the prosecution of a man for an offence created under the Labouchère Amendment when for precisely the same conduct another man may be prosecuted for an offence under a by-law and fined something like 40s.

If my noble friend had not been so ambitious as to widen the scope of this Bill, and if he had not resisted some of the suggestions made to him for its improvement, I think that this House could have given its approval to the Bill; but he has not stopped at seeking to repeal the Labouchere Amendment. After the noble Earl had said four times on Second Reading, "Vote for this as an expression of opinion that the law should be changed", we saw, when it got to Committee, how far he wanted it changed. He wants to legalise sodomy between consenting adults. I moved an Amendment to secure that that was not the consequence of this Bill. On that occasion I had the support in the Division Lobby of one of the keenest supporters of the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, also supported me, and I can quote in support, too, the observations of the predecessor of the most reverend Primate who has spoken to-day. He said that sodomy stood in a class by itself, and I quote his words—and is almost different in kind from other homosexual offences."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 206, col. 757, December 4, 1957.] He was in favour of reform of the law, but he wanted to leave sodomy still a crime.

I have listened to the most reverend Primate on a number of occasions. Some of his observations, and indeed his observations to-day, seem to me to draw little distinction and to suggest quite emphatically that little distinction can be made between an act of sodomy and an act of adultery. When I pressed him about this in the course of our Committee debates he said it would have to be left to the Almighty to determine the gravity of this respective conduct. The judges have to decide on the gravity of particular crimes. I must say I was surprised again to-day to hear it rather suggested by the most reverend Primate that sodomy was really not such abominable conduct after all.

The most reverend Primate said this in a speech which in our debates attracted perhaps as much attention as another speech he has recently made. He told us that this Bill legalising sodomy between adults—and I quote his words— will promote and not hinder the ways of morality in this country It is all very well to talk about lopsided morality, but, my Lords, is it really likely to be the case that when you remove criminal sanctions from sodomy, when you remove the deterrent, the occasions on which sodomy is committed will grow fewer? Or will they be more? I should have said that once it becomes lawful, obviously it will be more frequently done, despite what the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelates may say about it; and if it is more frequently done, can it really be said that this Bill, which legalises that, will promote the ways of morality in this country? I think it might equally be argued that to legalise murder would promote morality.

It has been interesting in this debate to find that no one has expressed a view upon whether or not these changes would lead to the commission of more acts of this kind. I am rather surprised that nothing has been said about that. But this Bill, which we are told with the greatest authority will improve morality, not only legalises sodomy but positively encourages male prostitution. Nothing has been said about that to-day. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, commenced his speech by saying that the well-being of young people is safeguarded. I do not know when in his mind one ceases to be a young person, but if he regards a person of over the age of 21 as possibly coming within the category of a young person, then it is not true at all to say that this Bill safeguards the well-being of young people.

When I moved an Amendment during the course of the Committee stage to seek to ensure that this Bill should not operate as an incitement, an encouragement, to male prostitution, I was opposed, of course, by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, but the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, made a speech in support of that Amendment, and in the course of it he was interrupted by the most reverend Primate who told him that he was in favour of the Amendment and would vote for it. The most reverend Primate did not do so. We missed him in the Division Lobby. He has never given an explanation of why he did not vote in support of an Amendment which discouraged male prostitution. And at the time he was interrupting, my noble and learned friend was saying this: "Why should it be right for people to tempt a young man?" Of course, if you say you cease to be young when you are 21, then it is true to say that this Bill does not alter the law as it now exists. But in relation to someone who might still be called young—23, 24, or 25—he under this Bill is to be open to every kind of temptation to secure his consent, and if he gives his consent then indeed there is no breach of the law.

There can be no doubt at all, in my view, that one of the consequences of passing this Bill, if it is passed in its present form as an Act, will be to encourage male prostitution, and I must say it will be an astonishing moment for me to see the most reverend Primate and the right reverend Prelates going into the Division Lobby and voting for it. It is all very well to talk about a lopsided presentation of morality. When it is said that this Bill will promote morality, it is a circular argument and defeats itself.

We have had interesting debates upon this subject. We were told, too, that this proposal was supported by an overwhelming majority of the Church Assembly, and it was only after that debate that the facts became known to me. There was a majority in the Church Assembly of 17 for the Wolfenden Report—155 for, to 138 against, with 407 abstaining. So out of 690 who could have voted, only 155 voted for the Wolfenden Report. And that was represented to your Lordships, with all the authority of a right reverend Prelate, as an overwhelming majority, and no correction has been made in this House and no apology for what I should regard as a glaring misrepresentation of the facts.


My Lords, I did make the statement in this House, and quite rightly I was corrected by my friend, Mr. Goyder in The Times, and I wrote to acknowledge that correction. I think it is fair to say that the figures quoted do not point out that the abstentions for the most part were not present in the House, in the Church Assembly. It was a Thursday afternoon. It was not a question of a large number of members not voting.


Whether or not it be a question of large numbers of members not voting, the facts—I am glad that they are admitted—are very different from those then represented, and if there were large numbers not voting it rather encourages me to think that, after all, there are not so many members of the Church of England Church Assembly who have such a terrific interest in this unsavoury subject.

We have had stressed to us to-day the effect of the public opinion polls. I must say I have not myself seen the result, exactly how the question was put or what was phrased. I do not know whether it was asked whether the public were in favour of my noble friend's Bill. If it was put on the Bill, I should not think many of them would be able to say what it contained. But I have no doubt at all that if the question was posed: "Should some change in the law be made?" there would be overwhelming support for that. But that is not really the question before your Lordships to-day. The question is whether we pass this Bill, and one of the chief grounds put forward for passing this Bill is the fact, so it is said, that the present law on homosexuality is the blackmailers' charter, the spies' charter and so on, in the belief, so it is argued, that one has only to pass this Bill and that kind of thing will stop. I do not believe that for a moment, and one can find no support for that at all in the Wolfenden Report.

It is said that criminality makes the threat of blackmail effective. One does not find that in the Wolfenden Report. I will not take up time, because it has been read so often, by referring to the particular passage. If anyone wants to check what Wolfenden says he will find it at paragraph 111. The other day I was talking to a lawyer of great experience on this particular aspect. He may be wrong—only the future will show—but he took quite a contrary view: that the crime of blackmail would not be removed by this Bill, but that what we should see is an increase in it. I hope that that will not be the case. But in the light of what is said in Wolfenden, I think that to put forward the argument, "We must make sodomy legal, we must encourage male prostitution, so that the opportunity for people being blackmailed may be reduced" is really not a powerful argument for this Bill.

My Lords, I have taken long enough and would say only this in conclusion. I did not vote in the Division on the Third Reading. Some of my noble friends did, and I appreciate why they wished to do so. I did not vote, because if my noble friend Lord Arran wished to have a further general debate on this subject today I certainly would not do anything to stop him. Therefore I abstained from voting. But we have had that debate now, and the question now before your Lordships' House is whether we pass and put our seal of approval not just to another measure affecting the law of homosexuality, but to this Bill—whether we give our seal of approval to a Bill legalising sodomy, encouraging male prostitution. What I would say to your Lordships is that I hope that if my noble friend presses this Bill to a Division, it will be rejected. And I should hope that your Lordships would say to him—because he knows this Bill cannot pass this Session—" Bring in another Bill next Session, of a limited character, to which we can all give our support".


My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, may I ask him to enlighten us on one matter? He talked about young people. What I understand to be the law of this country is that no girl may have sexual intercourse before the age of 16. After 16, she is capable, of course, of going into a world in which she may be seduced by her employer or by other people. The noble and learned Viscount has said that after the age of 21 young men should not have this temptation put in front of them. Is the noble Viscount suggesting that the moral fibre of young men of 21 and over is feebler than that of girls of 16 and over?


No, my Lords, I am not. I paid tribute to the noble Lord's maiden speech, and we discussed this in some detail in Committee. He will see where I stand upon that. What I am saying is that this Bill will encourage male prostitution, and will open a door which is not open at present in encouraging young people over 21, who I believe do exist, to consent to acts of this kind for money.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, I think there will be general agreement on at least one point, that to-day has been a notable occasion. It started with what, for me, was surprise drama, continued for a short time in some confusion—I do not think all of us knew quite what was going on—and then settled down into a steady stream of noble Lords from all parts of the House speaking in the debate.

There has been considerable mention in various speeches of national opinion polls. I have been taking my own poll of the speeches during the course of this debate. There have been 17 speeches in some two and a half hours, and the score reads 14 for, 3 against and none doubtful, which seems a larger majority than any we have been told about so far. For me, the most notable part of the debate was the remarkable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan. He spoke as one who is a social historian, with such great authority, fluency and knowledge that I know we shall eagerly look forward to his other contributions and hope that they will be as frequent as possible.

The debate pursued a quite even tenor, in which most noble Lords indicated that they thought that everything which could be said had been said, and then briefly said a few words in support, none of which, I think, call for comment from me. I do not think I detected even in the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, anything that I had not heard on at least two or three, or even four, previous occasions during the debate. I should, however, like personally—in view of exchanges in which I do not want to take any part—to express to the most reverend Primate my own appreciation of the part he has taken during this debate, irrespective of one's views on this subject; indeed, in my view, irrespective of the subject. As a humble lay member of the Church of England, I want to say that it has always been my dearest wish that the Bishops' Bench had long, long ago taken a far more positive part in social causes. Possibly if they had done so, some of the things which are dear to the hearts of some of us on this side of your Lordships' House might have been achieved sooner than they have been.

It is less than six months and, by my count, 86 speeches ago that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, introduced his Motion, "To call attention to the Wolfenden Report on Homosexuality". The subject had not been debated for seven years, and even then the tentative terms of his Motion (as has been pointed out, he has been tentative again to-day) clearly indicated that Lord Arran did not then expect your Lordships to express great enthusiasm for its recommendations. Yet we are now debating the Motion that this Bill should pass—a Bill which, in its earlier stages, has occupied four Parliamentary days.

I think it fair to say that we are debating this Motion in the knowledge that your Lordships gave a majority of nearly 2–1 on Second Reading, and nearly 3–1 on the Motion for the Third Reading; in the knowledge, also, that if one accepts the evidence of the opinion poll published this morning, a majority of public opinion appears to be in favour of the Bill. I can think of no similar example of a major controversial social reform which has made virtually no progress for eight years and then, in a mere six months, has made such an extraordinary advance. Whatever our views about its merits, I think that we should acknowledge that this success reflects great credit on the noble Earl, Lord Arran.

The path of a social reformer is not an easy one. Abuse, contempt, ridicule—usually anonymous, as the noble Earl said—are often his only reward. This, I believe, is especially true when the subject is as distasteful as that of homosexuality. Most of us prefer not to talk about it, not to know about it, and certainly not to legislate about it. It takes courage for anyone to insist on discussing this subject, and to that virtue Lord Arran has added a dogged persistence which has brought success.

Like other Members of your Lordships' House (and I, too, join with the noble Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in protesting that I was left out of Lord Swinton's remarks, because I have sat through every speech at all stages of this debate, and have not had the opportunity, as the learned Clerks have had, of leaving one behind to "keep wicket") I have made a number of speeches since the first Motion was introduced, and I do not intend to go over the arguments again. Nor shall I spoil that good intention by discussing at considerable length exactly what arguments I am not going to discuss. It may, however, be useful if I comment briefly on the developments which have taken place since the Second Reading.

First the Bill that we are now considering is very different from the Bill which first came before us. Lord Arran, I know, will not mind my saying that his original measure was more of a preamble than a Bill. It expressed an intention; it hardly amounted to legislation. Your Lordships now have the opportunity to consider the full implications of your Second Reading decision in a Bill which I think the noble Lord, Lord Byers, described as competent and comprehensive. Indeed, everything in this Bill follows the Wolfenden recommendation. It is for your Lordships now to decide whether legislation in the form proposed answers whatever doubts you may have expressed, on Second Reading or since. I myself am sure that the Government, although from the start making their neutral position clear, were right to offer the assistance of Parliamentary draftsmen so that the decision which your Lordships are about to take will be made on the real merits of the issue, unclouded by avoidable confusion and arguments about drafting technicalities.

The second change is that we now have more evidence about public opinion on this issue than we had at the time of the Second Reading. I am not going to discuss the pros and cons of this particular point, because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in saying that on issues of this kind—indeed, on any issue—we should be prepared to give a lead according to our views. I myself should like time to examine the figures in the poll published this morning. But if they are accepted, one can no longer argue that public opinion is against this Bill. If, however, the poll suggests that public opinion, like your Lordships' House, is decisively in favour of reform, we know that opinion in another place appears to be marginally against it, because that is the inference we must draw from the recent decision in the Commons refusing leave to introduce a Bill.

One other important development which was mentioned during the debate by the noble Lords, Lord Annan and Lord Byers, is the publication of Mr. Schofield's book, Sociological Aspects of Homosexuality. Whatever we disagree about, I am sure we are united in the conviction that we need more research on this subject so that our decisions may be based on evidence rather than prejudice. Mr. Schofield's work, I am happy to say, was undertaken with the assistance of a substantial grant from the Home Office, though the views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of the Home Secretary. I am glad he deals with what I always considered the principal objection to any relaxation of the law as between consenting adults; namely, the danger that any change there might affect the position of children. If he makes anything clear—and he makes many points clear to me—Mr. Schofield's researches confirm that child molesting is a quite separate phenomenon and should not be confused with adult homosexuality.

Now, my Lords, I must answer the "64,000 dollar question", which was put to me by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, by the most reverend Primate, by Lord Byers, and by other noble Lords from all parts of the House. It was the quite proper question: where do we go from here? As was pointed out quite forcibly and rightly by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, there is no prospect of this Bill's becoming law this Session, although I think those of us who have taken part, for and against, can say that it will be an advance to have a complete and thoroughly discussed Bill passed in your Lordships' House. In the next Session it seems likely that the difficulties will lie not here but in another place. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is not for me, or indeed for any Minister in this House, to deal with the allocation of time and business in another place. But I can, of course, say that the Government recognise the importance of this issue. I must also say that Parliamentary time is one of the most precious commodities available to a Government.

We have been strongly criticised at times in the country because, despite an almost record volume of legislation, we have not during this single Session enacted everything that was in the five-year programme on which we fought and won the Election. Obviously, great and important measures have still to be introduced, and obviously they must come first. The Government must decide the priorities, and their programme must have first claim on Parliamentary time. Indeed, those of your Lordships who have asked for these special facilities, and for time to be given by the Government, would, I feel sure, be the first to complain if by that action some important measure of social or economic significance were pushed aside.


I wonder whether the noble Lord is referring to anything to do with steel in that context?


No doubt the noble Viscount will be able to restrain his impatience just a few days longer until November 9, when all doubts, I am sure, will be resolved.

If there is one thing about the present Administration on which almost everyone is agreed it is that it is a Government that governs. It must decide priorities, and its programme must have first claim on Parliamentary time. It has been mentioned in this debate, and it is worth mentioning again, that a very considerable amount of time has been spent this Session in putting on to the Statute Book a major penal reform which has been struggling to emerge from Parliament for the last 150 years; namely, the abolition of capital punishment—a Private Member's Bill. More time was spent on this measure in another place than on any other single piece of legislation apart from the Finance Bill. It is asking a great deal to expect the Government to find the time in the very next Session for a similar measure of reform which promises to be equally contentious, but which apparently lacks the clear majority, all-Party support in another place which the abolition of capital punishment has possessed for the last seventeen years.

This subject is the very essence of a Bill for a Private Member and not for a Government. It would to me be quite remarkable if a Member of another place, fortunate in the Ballot, could not be found to sponsor it. Meanwhile, I will report the views of your Lordships' House to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I will also draw his attention to the other developments which have been illustrated in this debate. Since we last considered this issue there appears to have been a change, and I hope personally that, if it is possible to introduce the Bill, its progress will not be unduly delayed.

Finally, I would remind your Lordships that at all stages of this Bill the Government have adopted a neutral attitude. So far as we are concerned, Ministers and Back Benchers are perfectly free to vote as they wish. If, therefore, on this Motion now before us a Division is forced, no doubt everyone will vote according to his conscience. That leaves me free to say that, if this Motion is taken to a Division, I will gladly vote for it.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to make a speech of any sort. I am only going to say roughly twenty words. I have been deeply comforted by the magnificent things that have been said to-day, and if I had any

Resolved in the affirmative. Bill passed accordingly, and sent to the commons

doubts in my own conscience, to which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, referred, I can assure your Lordships that they are finally dissipated. In matters of this kind, in all social reform, one must have doubts; it would be arrogant not to have doubts from time to time.

I have been encouraged by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham—encouraged, but not enthused. One had hoped, of course, that one might have got what one asked for, but I am sure that sooner or later under one Administration or another, we shall get it. It only remains for me now, earnestly and humbly, to ask your Lordships to set your final seal of approval on this Bill.

On Question, Whether the Bill do now pass?

Their Lordships divided: Contents,96; Not-contents, 31.

Airedale, L. Falkland, V. Plummer, Bs.
Amherst, E. Ferrers, E. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Amulree, L. Fleck, L. Queensberry, M.
Annan, L. Foley, L. Reay, L.
Archibald, L. Francis-Williams, L. Ridley, V.
Arran, E.[Teller.] Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Ripon, L. Bp.
Asquith of Yarnbury, Bs. Gifford, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Attlee, E. Gladwyn, L. Robbins, L.
Audley, Bs. Grantchester, L. Sainsbury, L.
Barrington, V. Greenway, L. St.Albans, L. Bp.
Bedford, D. Haire of Whiteabbey, L. St. Just, L.
Blackford, L. Hastings, L. Sandford, L.
Boston, L. Henderson, L. Shackleton, L.
Bowles, L. Henley, L. Silkin, L.
Brockway, L. Hertford, M.[Teller.] Snow, L.
Burden, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Soper, L.
Burton of Coventry, Bs. James of Rusholrne, L. Southwark, L. Bp.
Byers, L. Jessel, L. Stamp, L.
Canterbury, L. Abp. Killearn, L. Stonham, L.
Chichester, L. Bp. Kinross, L. Strang, L.
Chorley, L. Lansdowne, M. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Colyton, L. Latham, L. Strathcarron, L.
Cranbrook, E. Lincoln, L. Bp. Swinton, E.
Croft, L. Listowel, E. Taylor,
L. Cromartie, E. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Twining, L.
Devonport, V. Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Vernon, L.
Dinevor, L. Maugham, V. Walston,L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mitchison, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Effingham, E. Molson, L. Wellington, D.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Monson, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Mottistone, L. Winterbottom, L.
Exeter, L. Bp. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Worcester, L. Bp.
Brocket, L. [Teller.] Ironside, L. Remnant, L.
Dilhorne, V. Kirkwood, L. Rockley, L.
Exeter, M. Leatherland, L. Rowallan, L.
Ferrier, L. Mac Andrew, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Grimston of Westbury, L. McCorquodale of Newton, L. St. Oswald, L.
Hobson, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.[Teller] Soulbury, V.
Horsbrugh, Bs. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Howard of Glossop, L. Monsell, V. Ten by, V.
Iddesleigh, E. Morton of Henryton, L. Waleran, L.
Ilford, L. Northchurch, Bs. Williamson, L.
Inglewood, L. Reith, L.

House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past six o'clock