HL Deb 10 May 1966 vol 274 cc605-52

5.25 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he now read a second time. Let me start off by saying that I am sorry we have started late. It was not my wish that this Bill should come last on to-day's Business, but we are starting a little earlier than I thought we might. I am sorry, too, because I am reintroducing a Bill which has already had the approval of your Lordships' House by a large majority. We have discussed these matters fully. On the other hand, I must make it absolutely clear that I in no way take your Lordships' fresh approval for granted. Anyone who took the House of Lords for granted would be a foolish man indeed.

I may well be wrong in thinking that the ground has been fully covered. I know that noble and distinguished Lords will speak to your Lordships in opposition to the Bill. It will be interesting to hear what new things they have to tell us. Once again we have the much respected noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, and once again we are confronted by two former Lord Chancellors. I am comforted, however, in the thought that six other noble and learned Lords, including the present Lord Chancellor, have either voted in favour of the Bill at one stage or another, or have signified their approval of it in letters to the newspapers. Furthermore, the Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker of Waddington, has authorised me to say that, though he is far from certain what the age of consent should be, he broadly approves of homosexual law reform so long as there is no question of corruption. Perhaps, while I am speaking of noble and learned Lords, I may say that I am personally glad that we are once again being addressed by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, on the many and varied things which come before your Lordships' House. He has, of course, written his name into this Bill by the Amendment he moved into it; and he is a man of high achievement and distinction.

But since we are again to be opposed, I imagine, in principle, perhaps I may say shortly why I think reform is necessary, and why I think this Bill is right. Of course, it is a Bill based on the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee. It is estimated that there are between 500,000 and one million homosexuals in this country—a substantial minority. To some, they are sad men; to some, they are ridiculous; to many, they are morally evil; and to the law, they are criminal. The arguments for law reform are that these men do not choose to be homosexual; that no man would deliberately and obstinately forgo the choice of loving women—that no man, let along 500,000 or one million, would be so stupid. The argument is that nature makes her mistakes with human beings, as with animals: she makes some of us physically deformed; she makes some of us mentally deformed; and others she makes emotionally deformed.

I agree most wholeheartedly that we have to guard against nature's deviation. We have to respect the welfare of the majority of society. Though we do not believe—and, please God!, we never shall—in the Nazi theory and practice of human stud farms based upon perfect human specimens, we have to see to it that our race, the British race, is not vitiated and degenerated. In particular, we have to see to it that our youth is not twisted and depraved. And the ultimate instrument for this purpose is, of course, the law.

The Wolfenden Committee were concerned, and rightly concerned, with these things. They recommended that penalties for offences against minors, against boys, should be made more severe: and this recommendation is incorporated in the Bill. But they also felt that there comes a time in a man's life when he must be allowed to decide for himself and to act according to what to him are his natural inclinations. This is what this Bill is about. We are saying that a grown-up man should not be a criminal because he is what he is, and because he may find someone else of like tastes and indulge in them privately. We are saying that such a man is evil, if you wish, but that he should not be sent to prison. We are against the persecution of a minority, just as we are against the persecution of Jews or Negroes—people who are born what they are, not of their own choosing.

This is a case of reform. It is strengthened by a desire to remove, or at least to lessen, the blackmail to which so many homosexuals, because of the present law, are subjected. It is strengthened—and to some of us this is the most important argument of all—by the knowledge that homosexuals or cryptohomosexuals can, and do, endanger the safety of this country. The case for reform is simple but formidable, and it has already had your Lordships' approval.

May I trace the history of this Bill since it left your Lordships' House? I fear I must do this. It has had a chequered career, and the present position is complex. Your Lordships will recall that, at the end of the last Session but one, the Bill, not having been enacted, disappeared off the face of the earth. It was as though it had never existed. But in the last Session Mr. Humphry Berkeley, who was lucky in the ballot, picked it up and introduced it in another place. It was, incidentally, your Lordships' Bill, with not a single word altered. He had a considerable success. The voting on Second Reading was 164 in favour and 107 against. My Lords, I was not surprised. Two opinion polls had already shown that 63 per cent.—the figure tallied in both the polls—of those asked were in favour of reform. And though I heartily dislike opinion polls, they have a way of being right.

All seemed set for the further progress of the Bill when the General Election intervened and Parliament was dissolved. Once again the Bill went into limbo. It was then necessary to start all over again from, if you like, square one, but what I call square nought. It was not my wish to introduce it in this House. Personally, I should have preferred that the proposed legislation started in another place. But it appeared at the beginning of the new Parliament that there was to be no ballot until November, and therefore I thought it best to attempt to get the Bill through your Lordships' House first, so that we might have a prepared instrument, approved by your Lordships, against the day when someone in another place would be willing to take it up by one means or another.

Since First Reading, however, there has been a change of Government plan. There will, after all, be a ballot in this Session, and accordingly it is now quite possible that a Bill on these lines will be introduced in another place in the near future. If this happens, I promise your Lordships that I will gladly and gratefully abdicate until such time, of course, as a Bill comes up to us from the Lower House in the ordinary way. But since there can be no certainty that any of the winning M.P.s will be prepared to take the Bill on, it seems to me wise not to chance it, but to proceed in this House. For I am determined, in so far as it lies in my feeble powers, that in one way or another this reform shall come about.

At this point, may I take up the question raised earlier on about the popularity or unpopularity of this Bill, or this reform, in terms of votes. I should like to say that, so far as I can detect, it carries with it no great electoral risks. It is true that Mr. Humphry Berkeley, that brave man who introduced the Bill in another place, lost his seat at the General Election. But it is also true that Mr. William Shepherd, perhaps the strongest opponent of the Bill, also lost his seat, to a Liberal. But the percentage against them was not very different. Further, it is a statistical fact that, of those who voted in favour of the Bill in another place, 7 lost their seats, whereas of those who voted against, 20 lost their seats. I do not believe that this is, or was, or ever will be, a political issue. I do not believe that anyone anywhere need funk it any more.

So much for the procedural or, if you like, the constitutional question. How do we stand in terms of fact? We have this extraordinary state of affairs that there are to-day men in prison whom Parliament has decided, in the Upper House in detail and another place in principle, are not criminals—men who, in the terms of this Bill, which is not yet law, have committed no crime. It is difficult to estimate how many of them there are: it has been suggested to me that there may be as many as 100 souls. Are we going to allow those fellows to remain there indefinitely? Is it right? Can we face such men? Can we say to them: "Look, you are here because the Government are busy with other things at the moment and have not the time to let the law be changed, even though both Houses of Parliament have said on principle that it should be changed"? I can only say that for myself I should be rather shamefaced if I had to talk to them, and somehow I do not think they would be very impressed with the argument that there was not time for them at the moment, but that sooner or later their turn would come. We should remember that on Second Reading in another place thirteen Members of the Cabinet voted in favour of the Berkeley Bill—your Lordships' Bill; none against; and that the Home Secretary spoke most movingly in favour of reform. It was a splendid operation: the patient died.

I apologised at the beginning of my speech for wearying your Lordships, and I fear that I may have done that. I have spoken too much on this subject for too long. I apologise again, but not over much. This Bill has had the approval of a majority of your Lordships' House. In this House it has been supported by a right reverend Prelate, noble and learned Lords, doctors, sociologists, schoolmasters, dons, elder statesmen, by young men and noble Ladies. It was not approved by the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein; but I am glad to be able to say, with permission, of course, that the noble and gallant Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma "approves most strongly of homosexual law reform." I deeply hope that, if the House is divided tonight—which I hope it will not be; though I know there are many noble Lords who feel strongly on these things—your Lordships will feel able to endorse your previous decision. The happiness of many men depends upon it. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Arran.)

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, may I take up the spirit of my noble friend Lord Arran's approach, and say that we have discussed this subject so often, and at such length, that I hope no one will hold it against me if I confine my remarks to the headlines of our position, and do not go into great detail. There is only one point which I would take up in my noble friend's speech, and that is his reference to those who are (and, of course, I accept it from him) in favour of homosexual law reform. But that may mean very different things. It may mean that they want the Labouchère Amendment, which went into the Act of 1855, but not with regard to gross indecency, whereas they would still be opposed to the legalising of the full offence of sodomy. That is a point which I think one can fairly bear in mind.

But I thought (and I am glad to see the most reverend Primate here) that we could find a common starting point. I have in mind that in our first debate, which my noble friend originated on May 12, 1965, the most reverend Primate said this—and I have read his words many times: 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. And he went on: There is a region where moral responsibility must certainly enter into the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 266, col. 80: 12/5/1965.] That was what I hoped might be a common starting point to our discussions—and the most reverend Primate has been good enough to nod. He said that that applied both to the commission and to abstinence. I will add to that my own experience as Home Secretary, if the House will bear with it once more, that out of 96 cases in prison for homosexual offences that were reported to me, only 15 were cases of genuine inverts, and the others included those who committed the act from motives of sensationalism or for money, or for reasons of that kind.

I accept that the vast majority of those supporting the Bill desire to keep the moral condemnation which I have just quoted. I think it is fair to say that few would agree with a powerful article in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago which, while predicating that the change in the law was probably right, asserted that those supporting the Bill really wanted a relaxation of moral standards, and should say so. I do not impute that, as I think my noble friend would not expect me to do. But that still leaves one important question which must be considered: the effect on the moral view of making the change from the acts being prohibited by the sanction of the criminal law to lifting that prohibition and making them legal.

I would again remind your Lordships that the lifting of the prohibition applies to the whole act of sodomy, and not only to the gross indecency covered by Mr. Labouchère's Amendment. I believe we are bound to consider the dangers of proselytising in this field, but it is my view that if we are lifting a statutory bar which has existed for over 400 years in regard to the full offence, we cannot do so without lightening the moral opprobrium with which the act is regarded. And it is the fact that there has been for over 400 years this prohibition which distinguishes the effect that the present proposals would have in this country, where that has been the law, from conditions in other countries which my noble friend could quote, and with which we are both very familiar, and also from the position of Lesbianism, which was raised in the course of our debates. That is my first point, and I ask your Lordships to consider it again. Can we lift that prohibition and criminal sanction and still keep the moral condemnation of the act of sodomy, which I accept is in the minds of most of your Lordships, however you vote on this Bill?

I will only say one word about blackmail, because that aspect has been discussed so often. I would remind my noble friend, and I know he has considered it, that in paragraph 111 of their Report Sir John Wolfenden and his colleagues said that the amount of blackmail was considerably exaggerated. I know that I shall be stamped on as a "square" for making this point, but I venture to make it again: that one method of avoiding blackmail is not to commit homosexual acts.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might, with respect to 'the noble and learned Earl, mention the question of blackmail for one moment. It has been said in your Lordships' House that the late Lord Jowitt said that when he was Attorney General 95 per cent. of the blackmail cases with which he had to deal were between men who had committed homosexual offences.


My Lords, I have heard my noble friend refer to that, but I have a great suspicion of comparative statistics. Ninety-five per cent. of what? My recollection—and the noble Earl will no doubt check it—is that something like eight cases a year were homosexual cases. I always hesitate to speak from memory but, if my noble friend will forgive me for introducing a slight touch of levity into so serious a matter, the classic example of the danger of comparative statistics occurred in World War I, when, as my noble friend may remember, somebody said that such had been the casualties in the Somme that 50 per cent. of the teetotallers in the famous Highland Regiment had been killed. The man said, "I know it is true; the survivor told me". There is always a danger in comparative statistics, which I think is worth remembering.

I come to the next point which is the question of discipline in the Services. A number are not covered by the provisions of the Army Act, the Air Force Act or The Naval Discipline Act, which are referred to in the Bill. I would, very respectfully, warn your Lordships that the words in the Army Act are "indecent and unnatural conduct". How long will this he considered "indecent and unnatural conduct" if your Lordships have changed the law and legalised sodomy, as is proposed? But, as I say, there are disciplined services to which those acts do not apply. Your Lordships will probably have seen (because there is a document in the Printed Paper Office) the views of the seafarers' and shipowners' organisations on this Bill. I do not think this point has been made, so perhaps your Lordships will allow me to make a short quotation from this document. It states: The Merchant Navy will face considerable problems if homosexual conduct between consenting adults on hoard ship is no longer an offence. Seafarers on board ship live in closed communities, which are almost exclusively male, for considerable periods of time, and these conditions tend to favour the development of homosexual conduct among some crew members. Such conduct can cause dissension among members of a crew, and has on occasions led to serious violence. Dissension among members of a crew, by its effects upon discipline and morale, can prejudice the safety of a ship. If the present legal sanctions against homosexual conduct are relaxed"— and that covers the position that the captain of a ship can discharge for such conduct— the conditions of shipboard life will deteriorate with consequential adverse effects upon safety and upon the attractiveness of the Merchant Navy as art occupation. Moreover, there might well develop a reluctance on the part of parents to allow their sons to enter the Merchant Navy as a career. I wanted to quote this, because they are not my words but words stated by a responsible body. I put the point to your Lordships again. Imagine a disciplined service, imagine the police, the fire service or the Merchant Navy. If it is known that officers are sleeping together and committing sodomy, what possible respect can they have from other ranks who look to them for guidance?


My Lords, if the noble and learned Earl will forgive me, may I ask one question? Is there anything in this Bill which prevents, or would prevent, a captain of a ship from discharging members of the crew on any grounds he likes?


I did not want to go into it in detail. That is the starting point of this paper. I think it would be clearer if I read it: The present legal position appears to be that buggery, which is a Common Law felony, is an offence if it is committed on board a British ship. The position of other homosexual acts, which if committed in England and Wales would be misdemeanours by virtue of Section 13 … is less clear. It may be that such acts if committed on a British ship would also be offences. The master of a British ship has a Common Law power to arrest and confine in a reasonable manner for a reasonable time any seaman or other person on his ship if he has reasonable cause for believing, and does in fact believe, that the arrest and confinement are necessary for the preservation of order and discipline. … The master also has the ordinary Common Law right to dismiss a seaman from his ship but he must obtain the consular sanction. These powers may at present be exercised by the master in respect of a seaman who commits a homosexual offence. But if both the Common and Statute Law is changed in respect of homosexual conduct between consenting adults, the master's Common Law powers will no longer be available in respect of such conduct on hoard ship. I think that answers my noble friend's point.


As the noble Earl has reached that point, may I intervene to say that the Government are advised on this matter and I will reply to it later. The noble Earl will be aware that this Bill does not apply to Scotland—he has quoted the regulations applying to British ships—and, in any event, a Master could still, under the law of Scotland, do all the things that the noble Earl has just read out. But I shall be dealing with this point in detail later.


I do not think the noble Lord would go so far as to want all ships to sail from the Clyde. Certainly as a Liverpool ex-Member of Parliament I should not want that.


That would be quite unnecessary. It would be somewhat absurd if they were English ships citing this law, as they are perfectly entitled to do as Scotland is part of Britain, and never went near the Clyde. But we will look at this and will be able to bring a solution forward later.


I am glad the noble Lord will look at this. But that is the reason on which the Seafarers' and Shipowners' Organisations have put forward these views. It is most important and reinforces the point that I have made with regard to services other than the Armed Forces of the Crown.

I wanted to say to my noble friend that one of the real difficulties that I have had—I have never disguised my views on this matter—is that I have a very great respect (I hope he will take it from me) for the compassion which animates so many of his views and actions. I hope he will believe it of me that it is not an easy matter to oppose something that has the strength of compassion behind it. But we in Parliament are responsible for the law and order of a country, and there are certain things which it is only possible to deal with on the basis of the sanction of the criminal law. This is not confined to repressive matters. It was the action taken by one of the greatest humanitarians in the history of this country, Lord Shaftesbury, when he introduced the Factory Acts. It was, I am almost sure, taken by Mr. Disraeli in his social legislation. Therefore, social advances have sometimes depended on applying the criminal law. The same thing applies to social decline.

We are, I say again, and it is becoming more evident to more people every day, rolling more quickly down the slope of the permissive society. Unless we stop that, the position may indeed be serious; and I say that one should draw the line, one should use the criminal sanction to deal with—I use the words I quoted—an "undecent and unnatural" offence, to deal with something which is disgusting, to deal with something which has immense power of corruption over the young and that does not cease to have that power when they come to 21.

These are the reasons why I feel strongly. I hope my noble friend will agree that I have tried to put my views with moderation; but I am bound to express the views that I hold so strongly. I ask your Lordships to reject this Bill, and for that purpose I shall ask the House to divide at the appropriate time.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I share the admiration that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, has expressed for Lord Arran's initiative in this matter, and I greatly respect the tenacity and resolution of the noble Earl in fighting for this Bill, for the reasons he has given. I should be grateful if the Government would consider amendine legislation so that your Lordships' House need not, in future, return to debating a Bill in regard to which the great majority of your Lordships have already, I suspect, made up your minds.

Since the last debate in your Lordships' House I have considered whether there are new matters that have arisen in relation to this Bill that should receive special attention here to-day. I suppose it can be said that the murder trial that ended last week has some bearing on it, for it has disclosed again the dangers of blackmail where an alleged homosexual was concerned. I read last evening the Hansard report of the debate on the Sexual Offences Bill in another place, and I noted what was said by Mr. Humphry Berkeley, the mover of the Bill. He said: All of us who are Christians, and probably many who are not, regard homosexual acts as morally wrong."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons: Vol. 724, col. 786; 11/2/66.] Much has been said already about the general principles underlying this Bill by the two previous speakers, as by many of your Lordships on previous occasions; and if I do not repeat what has been said to-day, it is not that I wish to do anything other than support what I have said on the previous occasion. The supporters of this Bill do not want any relaxation of moral standards. That is my clear impression. The supporters of this Bill desire to keep moral condemnation for homosexual acts. Frequently though this statement has been made, it needs to be said again and again. I hold this conviction strongly, and I am certain that Christians who think in these terms must be alive to the problems of homosexuals, and do their part to see to see they are reasonably and justly treated. I continue to support the Wolfenden proposals.

My attention has been drawn to one or two points that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, has already mentioned—to the position of seafarers under this Bill. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, speaks with great authority on this subject, but I have been asked to raise this matter and I do so with the noble Viscount's goodwill. In paragraph 144 of the Wolfenden Report, which deals with offences in disciplinary services, the Committee observed that within services subject to a disciplinary r…gime it might be necessary, for the sake of good management and the preservation of discipline, to regard homosexual behaviour as an offence, even by consenting adults in private.

Mr. Adair made certain reservations to the Report, and in one of them, in paragraph 11, he asked about the wisdom of increasing the number of differentiating offences, for differentiations were bound to provoke in service members a sense of injustice. But Mr. Adair went on to conclude that if there was a prescribed age when certain homosexual acts were no longer penalised, then the feelings of grave injustice, as between those under and those over the prescribed age in a service, would seriously affect the morale of members of the services and this could lead to corruption. These two paragraphs refer to offences in the disciplined services, but in Clause 1(5) reference is made only to the Navy, the Army and the Air Force.

I understand that in the Merchant Navy the opinion has been strongly expressed that seafarers should be excluded from Clause 1(1), as members of the Armed Forces are excluded. I have been given three reasons why this exclusion is desirable. First, publicity. If seafarers with homosexual tendencies indulged in them at sea, even though they were adults and the offences were supposedly in private, their activities would become known on board and the results can be imagined. Secondly, example. The average crew of a ship contains a high proportion of young men, and they live together in a closed community. The knowledge that unnatural acts were committed on board and that they were no longer an illegal offence when done in private between consenting adults would have damaging effects on the characters of these young men. Thirdly, opportunities. Seafarers are away from their home bases for considerable stretches of time. Homosexuals, it is argued, in these circumstances would have greater opportunities of corrupting young people. I cannot claim to know the Merchant Navy, but these representations have been made to me by some who know it well.

I am told that these points have been sympathetically considered by the Board of Trade and that the Board has agreed to have discussions with the Home Office. If Clause 1(5) can be redrafted, if this point can be considered on the Committee stage, I shall be grateful. I realise that some may argue that if seafarers in the Merchant Navy are to be excluded from Clause 1(1), other categories, such as the police or firemen, should be considered. But I submit that the case for the exclusion of seafarers is a case on its own: the circumstances of their working days set them apart, for the reasons that I have indicated. I thought it would be worth while just to refer to the position of seamen in the Merchant Navy. I have. For the rest, I have pleasure in supporting Lord Arran's Bill.

6.9 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to repeat the arguments I advanced in the earlier discussions on this Bill. They have been put most powerfully and persuasively by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for his kind observations. I am afraid that they leave my attitude to this Bill completely unaltered. I think this is a throughly bad Bill.

I realise that my noble friend's approach arises largely from compassion. He believes that the homosexual is born, and his argument is that after a certain age the homosexual should be allowed to decide for himself what he does in private. But the noble Earl does not carry that argument to its logical conclusion: that those who have the misfortune to be born with incestuous tendencies should be allowed to do the same, or indeed to other forms of vice. But it is not the case that all homosexuals are born. The very figures which my noble and learned friend gave show that many people develop homosexual tendencies through being approached and corrupted; and the speech of the right reverend Prelate recognised the special needs in relation to a Service where men are living for some time in a closed society. If I understood him aright, he does not for one moment suggest that all homosexuals are born that way.

There is one question that I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I should be grateful if he would give me an answer. I hope he will forgive me for putting the question after he has already replied to a question which I put in an earlier debate. He referred, rather to my astonishment, to the suggestion that the master of an English ship sailing, say, from Southampton with an English crew could, if this Bill is passed into law, apparently rely on Scottish law for dealing with homosexual conduct on board ship. Perhaps we shall have an opportunity of hearing that, to me, astonishing argument. But the question I want to put to him is a more simple one than that, and it is this. If a number of people engage in promoting acts of homosexuality between consenting adults, will that be a criminal offence? Will that he a conspiracy to effect a public mischief, or will it not? I should be grateful if the noble Lord could answer that question.

I do not at this stage intend to say very much about this Bill. I was glad to hear it said, with all the authority of the right reverend Prelate, that the supporters of this Bill do not want any relaxation of moral standards. But I would say to him that if the supporters of this Bill get the Bill passed, they really do not know what they do; because, in my belief, if this Bill is enacted there will inevitably be a relaxation of moral standards. That is absolutely inevitable. They may not welcome it; they may not think it is right. But it will flow from their support for this measure that we shall have that relaxation. The right reverend Prelate referred to a recent trial. I must say—and I say this in conclusion—that I had hoped my noble friend Lord Arran, even though he has the support of the most reverend Primates and the right reverend Prelates for this measure, would have thought twice, after recent events, before reintroducing this measure to legalise one form of vice.

6.12 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to go again through the general principles behind this Bill. They have been argued at great length during Second Reading, the Committee stage, and indeed the Third Reading of the Bill when it was introduced in the last Parliament. If T may, I will try to meet some of the points which have been raised by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir.

He began, I think, by saying what a tremendously evil effect it will have on moral standards if this Bill passed; that the removal of a statutory bar on homosexual conduct must inevitably lead to a decline in moral standards, and that it was this statutory bar, the sanction of the law, which in fact preserves our moral standards in this respect and deters people from becoming homosexuals. I tried to meet that argument in the speech which I made on the Third Reading, my maiden speech, when I asked whether it was not possible that the effect of the Labouchère Amendment, which was passed without any debate in Parliament, and which led to trials—of which the most notable, the most remarkable, the most highly publicised and which still lives in people's memories to-day was the trial of Oscar Wilde—was that the publicity given to that trial led to a tension in society about the problem of homosexuality. It led to much of the excitement, the foetid talk about the subject, and in fact, so far from the law's preventing people from indulging in this vice, it may well have had the effect of promoting excitement and of inducing people to break the law lust "for the hell of it". That is the first point I should like to point to in the speech of the noble and learned Earl.

I should like to come now to his next point about the particular crime of sodomy. I take it from the noble and learned Earl's speech that he was particularly concerned with this aspect of homosexual conduct, because he used that term not as a blanket phrase for any kind of homosexual conduct but as an actual description, a legal term. If that is so, I think this question which exercises him so much, the fact that under this Bill sodomy would be legalised, could he met by arguments which were raised in the Committee stage of the Bill; that is to say, that if Parliament legalises homosexual conduct between consenting adults it is impractical to try to exclude sodomy from that permissive law. In other words, in order to prove sodomy, the police would then have to be enabled to make a medical examination of anyone who, in their view, was likely to have been engaged in homosexual conduct with another person. This, it seems to me, would lead to an absurd and impossible position in the administration of the law.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him, because he is developing an interesting point? Until the Labouchère Amendment in 1885, sodomy was a statutory offence, so for nearly 350 years these difficulties of which he has spoken were faced and dealt with by the police in proving an offence.


My Lords, I wonder if the noble and learned Earl would feel it reasonable to say that the conditions in which cases are judged to-day differ from the pre-Victorian era. I think that if, in fact, sodomy were excluded from this Bill—in other words, if sodomy remained a crime—I would still maintain either that it would be very difficult indeed to get any proof that it had been committed; or, if proof were sought that sodomy had been committed, this would make complete nonsense of the provisions of the Bill to allow homosexual conduct between consenting adults. I do not see how one can get round that procedural difficulty, which must afflict the police if they have to face this problem.

Then there has been a reference, I think both in Lord Kilmuir's speech and in the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, to the fact that this Bill will encourage male prostitution. Here again, it seems to me that we must face the practical consequences of this Bill. If I may go back to the previous debates, it was, of course, the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who in the Committee stage, and indeed on the Third Reading of the Bill, chided those who were in favour of it for not sticking to the Bill. He criticised those in favour of the Bill for making speeches which were in terms of general principle. He paid tribute to their compassion, but he said that they did not address themselves to the clauses of the Bill. May I try to address myself to the clauses in the Bill which do not mention the exchange of money, prostitution, as being a crime?

An Amendment was, of course, moved to the effect that it should be a crime, but the reason why it is impossible, in my view, to introduce into the Bill clauses which would penalise male prostitution is, again, simply because of the difficulties of proof. It may well be said that, where it can be shown that money changes hands in consideration of which a homosexual act takes place, this is good enough proof. But how do we expect that the police would be able to enforce such a clause if it were added to the Bill? I think, again, that they would find themselves in conditions of great difficulty. Moreover, another principle is involved here; and that is whether one believes there should be no difference in the laws between men and women. To introduce yet another discrimination against men for sexual offices would, I think, produce just the kind of injustices and confusions in the law which this Bill is tring to remove.

Finally, if I may move to the point of the social decline which is forecast for our society if this Bill becomes law, I would say that in my view this is a very difficult thing to prognosticate. I realise, of course, that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, speaks from the bottom of his heart when he says he genuinely believes that, when this Bill becomes law, this country will start—or, perhaps he may feel, will continue—to roll even faster down the slipperly slope of disintegration and moral ruin. But, if I may speak here as a social historian, these things are very difficult to predicate. I do not myself believe that there is any justification for holding this view, because there are too many causes in history ever to be analysed to show that a decline of this kind occurs. We all know the famous misstatement in history that the decline of the Roman Empire was due to its sexual laxity. I can assure your Lordships that the decline of the Roman Empire, in the view of historians, was due to very many more causes than that; indeed, there is no evidence that this was one of the main causes of the decline.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Is it not true that the reason why the Athenian Empire fell was because the Athenians were beaten in battle by the Spartans, who were ten times as wildly homosexual as the Athenians themselves?


My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Earl's elucidation of history, and I am glad to accept it. But if I may return to the point, there are many changes of a cultural nature which I believe are taking place in society to-day.

Great changes have taken place since the war—and I hope that the noble and learned Earl will not in any way feel that this is a criticism of his outlook on life—which make our society to-day markedly different from that in which he grew up as a boy. These changes have come about through the impersonal forces of history. They have come about by the greatly increased standards of living in our society. This has meant that whole sections of the population which in Victorian times were really outside society, because they were so poor, although they were objects of consideration by the governing classes, are now within society; and, apart from certain pockets of poverty, the whole of our inhabitants in this country are genuinely part of society. This has led to a great variety of moral standards. And in saying this I am not referring to moral standards in terms of sexual standards. I mean a great variety of values which different sections of the population accept.

It is no longer true to-day, I think, that the values professed by the upper classes and the learned classes, for instance, are necessarily accepted by the rest of society. We have moved into a much more pluralist society, and I have a feeling that when the noble and learned Earl asks whether we are not moving down a slippery slope of social decline, he does not fully envisage what has taken place—namely, that many different sections of the community assert their right to live in the way that they see fit, and not to take instruction from those who in days past would have been called their betters.

These differences in moral standards are bound to increase as time goes on, as our society becomes pluralist. This, I think, is what this Bill is trying to give effect to. It is trying to make it possible for those who, physiologically and psychologically, do not fit into the normal pattern of sexual behaviour to live, without persecution, without prosecution, without blackmail, in the way they choose. Blackmail is one of those things which have been mentioned frequently in the debate. I should be the last to argue that if this Bill is passed blackmail for homosexual offences will become a thing of the past. Of course it will continue; but it will be reduced, and that reduction is part of the compassion which the noble Earl, Lord Arran, has introduced into our conception of the law. That is why I very much hope that this Bill will be passed by your Lordships' House as it was in the last Parliament.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, if the law had been precisely the reverse of what it is to-day, I should myself be very averse to any desire to change it. If the proposals made in this Bill formed an insignificant part of a general Statute dealing with all sorts of other moral questions, then I do not know that I should oppose it so strenuously. But as it is to-day a Bill devoted to this particular subject, it is bound to have a harmful effect and it is bound to give the whole British public a feeling that conduct which before was very reprehensible has ceased to be reprehensible and is now under public countenance. It is not the smallest use the people who support this Bill saying that they wish to preserve existing moral standards, if at the same time by supporting this Bill they do something which is going to have the very effect which they profess to deplore. That point has been made by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Kilmuir, and by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, very much better than I can make it, and in accordance with your Lordships' practice I leave it, having just said that.

There are only two other points on which I should like to touch, which have already been made in this debate. I think the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in introducing this Bill laid some stress on the way people were made and the nature they were born with. I think that is correct. I do not want to mistranslate him. We are all born with a nature which we have to correct. I do not know whether I was born a liar, but I am perfectly certain that I became one at a very early age. Your Lordships know me very well, and I hone you do not think that I have continued the practice. We all have to learn to discipline and control our natures, and I do not think that it is a very strong argument for a Bill to assume that people are born in a way which cannot be altered. I have in mind one man, for whom I have an enormous respect, who became a very great man and a very great poet, who, if his biography is true, was subject to these desires at a comparatively early age and mastered them with great difficulty and produced, as a result, great poetry. I do not think, therefore, that this business of controlling the nature you were born with is insuperable.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, turned to the Roman Empire. My Lords, there are two theories about the Roman Empire. One very learned man, Mr. Bussell—I do not know whether or not he is a professor—said that the Roman Empire fell because there was one class which paid all the taxes, one which collected all the taxes and one which spent all the taxes, and that that was the end of the Roman Empire. I do not think that most of us who have read about the Roman Empire would altogether agree with that. The Roman Empire seems to me to have fallen because Roman families ceased to produce children. At the end of the Republic it was a problem, and it went on in the Empire. The only people who had children were slaves: so much so that later on one man of no particular parts, who happened to be the only man that they could find of the Julian family, was made Emperor simply because he was a Julian. That fact shows that the Roman Empire fell because it ceased to produce Romans. I think it ceased to produce Romans, as anyone who has read Horace or Juvenal will know, because it ceased to he interested in the production of Romans. For that reason, I still feel that this is a Bill which ought not to pass.

At the next stage I shall produce the very same Amendment as I produced on a former occasion, or a very similar one—that is, if this Bill goes to the Committee stage—and I hope very much that your Lordships will support me in that Amendment because I not only have the reasons which I gave then but I also have other reasons which have affected me very greatly.

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, taking part once again in a debate on a Bill which sets out to reform the law for adult homosexuals, I am conscious that to repeat oneself is to subtract from the strength of any arguments. During the course of the debates we held on the same subject six months ago I several times wished to ask the question, "Is there a psycho-analyst in the House?" He might have been able to evaluate some of our arguments. There were some striking features about those debates, not least the views that the right reverend Prelates expressed and the severe approach of some noble and learned lawyers to what for them must have been a familiar problem. I noticed that they expected a restraint from homosexuals that they could not possibly get from heterosexuals. I can more readily understand the anxieties and fears of those noble Lords who are active in youth organisations, but there is nothing in the Bill which weakens the law with regard to the corruption of young people.

I have always been of the opinion that magistrates and lawyers could benefit from a short course of psychology, but when it comes to the question of the homosexual and the law I think a compulsory course in physiology would be beneficial to them. A knowledge of the nervous and vascular system in human anatomy would considerably enlighten them, and would demonstrate to them how easily diffused sexual pleasure can become. This would perhaps make them less certain of the boundary between what they call "natural" and what they call "unnatural" behaviour. It might even dilute some of their feelings of disgust. The law, it seems, accepts practically all sexual behaviour between members of the opposite sex as "natural" and the merest sexual expression between males as "unnatural". This irrational view is carried over after a man is convicted. What do we do, my Lords? We send him to a male prison. It might perhaps be more beneficial to send him to a women's jail.

As for the argument that the law as it stands is a good law because it is an old law, this is a sad reflection on our times and the need we have for progress. I myself do not share the prevalent and pessimistic views about young people to-day which were expressed in the last debate. I believe that a more frank approach to sex will guard them against corruption from older homosexuals. I do not think their moral fibre is so feeble. But all this exaggerated talk of moral weakness seems, ironically enough, to thrive in peace time. During the last two world wars, and particularly during the First World War, we sent them to fight like lambs to the slaughter, but we spoke of them as lions. Of course, we know that everything is not right with the morals of our society—not for the young or for the old—but would anyone really get up and seriously suggest that the world was a better place fifty years ago? I cannot believe this.


I beg the noble Lady's pardon, but I do.


I respect the noble Lord's views. Of course, wherever the sexes are segregated—in defence organisations, schools, prisons, et cetera—there are always dangers that the powerful sex instinct will find some means of expression. Perhaps a good drive for coeducational schools and universities would make the position better. We should try to deal with the problems of homosexuality in every way we can. The Armed Forces, in any case, have their special laws and safeguards. I am of the strong belief that it is not the function of the law to legislate for the private behaviour of the adult citizen, be he heterosexual or homosexual, and that we should not build our laws upon the capricious feelings of disgust.

This seems to me a good Bill, even though the lawyers may wish to trim it a little. I believe that if this Bill goes through this House and is passed in another place, far from having a corrupting influence on our society it will create a much healthier attitude to sex in general and will alleviate much persecution and suffering. I believe that the dangers of facing the facts about human nature are less than the dangers of denying their existence.

In conclusion, my Lords, may I express my respect and admiration for the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for persevering once again with a Bill to reform the law on homosexuality? It takes courage; and if he had tried to introduce this Bill in another age, he would perhaps have been burnt at the stake. Those of us who support him know that to disturb the deep and primitive emotions attached to any manifestations of sex is like treading on a minefield. Some of us have been pelted with the filth of anonymous postcards and letters. But may I add, finally, that moral indignation is not a weapon exclusive to those who oppose reform? It is a two-edged weapon. I hope that this Bill will go through this House and be passed in another place, and that the law concerning adult homosexuals will be changed. If this comes about, it will long be to the credit of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and to the credit of this noble House, which is well on the way to becoming the best social reforming Chamber in the land.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, since listening to the debate that took place during the last Parliament I, too, have had many letters such as were mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. What struck me about those letters is that there is another side to homosexuality which has received very little support so far in this House. We have heard a great deal about the persecution of the homosexual, but we have heard very little about the homosexual's persecution of those who do not fall in with his plans and his wishes. I know of two men who lost their jobs, who were hounded out, by a man who had approached them for a year or more and who, having failed, had no mercy on them whatsoever.

I have read The Sociology of Homosexuality from cover to cover, because I was told in the last debate that nobody could read that book without tears in their eyes. There were accounts of interviews with 150 different men who are homosexuals. I could find no evidence whatsoever, in the case of any one of those men, of the slightest contrition, or even the slightest shame or guilt. I found that there are certain types of homosexuals whose delight it is to seduce young heterosexuals and lead them down the garden path which, as we have been told, leads to nothing but frustration, sorrow and degeneration. The report itself, in, I think, paragraph 58, tells us that the committee consider that it is inevitable that there should be some increase in homosexuality if this Bill is passed.

The other day I read a book called The Cult of Softness. I do not know if any noble Lord has read it, but it is well worth reading, in connection with this Bill and with other Bills of the same kind. In it we trace the way in which the moral standards of this country have fallen in recent years because of the so-called "Christian charity" which it extends to all kinds of apathetic approach to aberration, misdemeanours and sins. I read the other day also a quotation from Abraham Lincoln, who was certainly not an anti-humanitarian. In that quotation he said You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. Yet, my Lords, the whole tendency in this country has been to do that very thing.

Sympathy is a wonderful thing; it is a necessary quality in the making of any man worth his salt. But we can carry sympathy too far when we carry it to the extent that it is detrimental to the life and living of the victim. We have seen quite lately the concern in the minds of many people at the treatment of the train robbers. There has not been much sympathy expressed for the man whose whole life was ruined by the actions of those very men who listen to their television and enjoy the pictures and the social activities in the prisons in which they are confined. If this Bill is passed, I am convinced that there will be an increase in homosexual practices; that a concerted effort will be made to pervert the young—over 21, perhaps, so as to be able to escape the guilt of their sins; but there will be an increase.

I should like to make one quotation from the New Testament which was left out of the other quotations about the woman taken in adultery, and so on. The quotation is:— Woe unto to that man through whom the offence cometh! It were better for that man that a millstone were hanged around his neck and he were cast into the midst of the sea. We have heard a great deal about the Christian charity of the gentle Jesus, meek and mild. I have read the New Testament from end to end as often as most people; but I have never yet found a case where Our Lord condoned sin—forgiveness, yes. But the woman who was taken in adultery was not told merely that she was not to be condemned: she was told, "Go and sin no more". That was the whole basis of the early Christianity, in all that I have read. There was not condonation for sin and error; particularly if it was going to affect other people. But there was sympathy always; and comfort for those who came with a humble and a contrite heart.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to apologise to the noble Earl and to your Lordships for arriving so late in this debate. Unfortunately, I was misinformed about the expected starting time. I have not hitherto taken part in the discussions in this House on this subject, but I venture to do so to-day mainly in order to reinforce the pleas already made by the right reverend Prelate in respect to the impact of this Bill, if it becomes an Act, on the men of the Merchant Navy. But since this is a Second Reading debate I feel I ought first to declare my position in the matter generally.

I have not had the great experience which many of your Lordships have had in the administration of the law as it stands to-clay; or, indeed, of the social problems that arise from homosexual practices. But I have read very carefully the discussions that have taken place, both in this House and in another place, and have, I hope, studied them objectively. The conclusions I reach is that I am against this Bill. I think it is common ground that the practices with which we are dealing are deplorable and should be discouraged, especially in the young; and T feel that any legislation must be looked at from the point of view: Does it or does it not discourage these practices?

A great number of the arguments adduced in support of this Bill undoubtedly have force; but in this, as in other matters, the decision must be on the balance of argument, and I suggest that it is not right to legislate to protect the activities of the minority if the result is to subject others to undue hazard. This, it seems to me, is the difficulty that faces us. It is right that we should have every sympathy for those unfortunate people who cannot resist the temptation to undertake unnatural practices. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, suggested that perhaps on strictly medical grounds these practices were not unnatural. I think that is a view not very widely held. Indeed, the framers of the Bill have clearly been at pains to protect young people. They have not only left the offence as it stands at present of having homosexual relations with a young person, but they have increased the penalty. We must have every sympathy with these unfortunate people whose case has been very eloquently pleaded, but that does not mean giving them approbation. In that respect I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan has said.

There is the view that this is a private affair and a matter of conscience, and not a suitable subject for the law. But, here again, surely, we must consider whether the private activities of people have their impact on others, and I should have thought that one of the sad things about these practices is that they do excite young men at an impressionable age in adolescence. They are undoubtedly encouraged to experiment in these practices. That may well lead to their ultimate downfall, if I carry your Lordships with me in thinking that it is a downfall.

Then there are arguments used of a more practical nature: that the law as it stands at present is practically unenforceable, or is enforced only in a whimsical way because it is so difficult to detect the offence. But, my Lords, surely that applies to other offences dealt with in the Statute Book. I should have thought that it applies very largely to a range of motoring offences. Is it more difficult to enforce a law which prohibits homosexual relations between adult males than a law which prohibits homosexual relations between an adult male and a young person? A great deal has been made of the fact that the existing law has been christened "The Blackmailers Charter". But does not any undetected lawbreaking give an opportunity to the blackmailer? It seems to me that if blackmailers have taken greater advantage of opportunities provided by cases of this kind, it is because, in addition to being a breach of the law, this practice is something which most people regard as disreputable and disgusting: and the hold which the blackmailer has is not just that a man is liable to prosecution but that he will be shown up before his friends and family, and perhaps in his business, and so on. So I very much doubt whether blackmailers will be greatly deterred by this Bill.

Now I come to what I feel is the great argument against this Bill. It seems to me quite extraordinary that a law should be passed which says that it is all right to do this if you are 21 but it is not all right to do it before you are 21. It is suggested that that will not encourage young people to experiment in this direction. It is not just the young people of the present generation, but all young people who, I should have thought, if I may put it this way, would almost regard it as a challenge: "If this is something I can do when I am grown up, why cannot I do it now?". I am sure that it will greatly hinder the efforts of schoolmasters and others to keep this practice from spreading among the young.

May I say a few words about the men in the Merchant Navy? In a ship at sea we have a close community of males in a situation where no doubt there are special temptations. The aim of the promoters of this Bill is to legalise homosexual relations between consenting adult males in private. It seems to me that on hoard ship both those last two conditions have a different meaning. The act may be performed in private in the technical sense that it is behind a closed door, but in a small community it could hardly ever escape being known, and this immediately gives rise to tensions in the ship. You have people who regard the practices as horrible and who may proceed to assault those who indulge in them and if there are, unhappily, more than two or three who indulge in them, it may give rise to problems of jealousy and the like which can occur. I understand that there have been cases where assaults and knifings have taken place as a result of homosexual practices on board ship.

My Lords, the master of a ship has a difficult task. He can maintain discipline through the Merchant Shipping Act, but that does not provide any specific provisions in this regard, and it seems to me quite clear that if the law is made that this practice between consenting males in private is legal, his power to put a stop to that sort of thing will be greatly decreased. We should not forget that there are among ships' crews a substantial number of young people who will undoubtedly know what is going on and who may be encouraged thereby to do the same.

Then again, consent is not quite the same thing when you are living in very close communities and it is difficult for someone to get away from someone else. If there are pressures brought to bear in the ordinary world, and if a young man is sufficiently strong-minded, he can walk out and go away. As the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, said, sometimes that has very damaging effects, but at least if he is sufficiently strong-minded, he can get away. It is more difficult in a ship where a man may be living close by people who may be trying to persuade him to indulge in these practices. So it seems to me that if your Lordships decide to give this Bill a Second Reading—I very much hope that you will not—there is a strong case for an Amendment which will put the men in the Merchant Navy in the same position as men in the Armed Forces, and exclude them from the operation of the provisions of Clause 1.

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I cannot congratulate my noble friend on presenting this Bill, but I admire his pertinacity. I took no part in the debates last year, other than to vote in the Division on the Third Reading. I did not speak because I knew that then it could not become law, and I hoped against hope that, having fallen, it would originate in another place and perhaps never reach your Lordships' House. Even as it was, my Lords, the debates in your Lordships' House took a curious pattern. I say that because we had that Monday Sitting, called at short notice, for the Second Reading, with a Division; and I think I am right in saying that the Committee stage was on a Friday morning at one time. Be that as it may, here we have the Bill again, and I feel compelled, with your Lordships' permission, to make a contribution to the debate.

My views coincide with those expressed by Mr. Adair in the reservations he published to the Wolfenden Committee's Report. They extend to nearly six pages relating to homosexuality. I will not endeavour either to repeat them or make a précis of them. I would say that his views are views with which I agree. I should like to emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, in the debate last year. I cannot see how a sin—and this act we are discussing is a hideous sin; I nearly said bestial, but beasts do not do it—is any more excusable morally because it is committed in private. I am unable to agree that the law should rule that a gross offence of this sort is no crime. Heterosexual behaviour is, to my mind, in quite another category. It is not that the law does not need re- form. I think we are all agreed that the law does need reform as it bears on the homosexual. The homosexual is either mentally deranged, in which case he deserves our compassionate consideration (and this class of homosexual is, in my belief, a minority), or he is a sinner in a sin which is bred from self-pity out of sadism, or from lack of self-control out of lust. As my noble friend Lord Saltoun said, I cannot believe that a great many of these emotions cannot be controlled by men of character. Some measure of reform may be necessary, but not in this way. That is my objection to the Bill.

This Bill offers a charter to the male prostitute. I do not think there is any question about that. Its effects would tend to corrupt society. This point has been made by my noble friend Lord Saltoun, and I entirely agree with what he said; and it is also a point which Mr. Adair makes strongly in his reservations. There is no doubt, in my mind, that it would corrupt society; and nobody has spoken more strongly than the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, in this debate in this connection. Further, in my view, it does next to nothing to frustrate the blackmailer. This point has been touched upon by several speakers. It seems to me that it does nothing to alleviate the situation. Why do I say this? The reason is that, law or no law, the people as a whole detest and despise homosexual behaviour. Therefore, crime or no crime, the blackmailer can continue to rely upon this Bill, if it becomes an Act, as a basis for his misfeasance.

I think it is safe to say that this particular form of misdemeanour seldom crosses the path of the average man. Ordinary, decent people are not involved in this sort of thing. I have an old friend who served for more than thirty years in one of our largest industrial undertakings. For many years he was in the personnel department, managing upwards of 10,000 persons. He tells me that only once in the years when he was in the personnel department, and, indeed, in the years he was in the company, did he ever come across trouble over a homosexual in the employment of the undertaking. I believe that the incidence of homosexuality in our society has hitherto been greatly exaggerated.

There is one other point, which I almost hesitate to make, but it is based on conversations I have had with people in all walks of life. It is this. I believe that in continuing to worry about this particular Bill we are bringing your Lordships' House into contempt.




If that is the case, as I believe it to be, then the right thing is to refuse the Bill a Second Reading, and let us have an end of it.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. It is the first speech he has made on this subject, and I should like to say what a powerful speech it was. I wish to speak for a few moments, because it is essential that we should have the Division as soon as we can. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, who introduced the Bill, said that there were between 500,000 and one million men in the country who are homosexuals. We do not really know that: it may be so, or it may not be so. Then the noble Earl said that these men do not choose homosexuality. We have had speeches from noble Lords in this House who are members of the medical profession, and who have said that this is not the case, and that those who are homosexuals are rather like the different colours of the rainbow: some may be that kind, and some may be the other kind; and then there are the centre different colours of homosexuals.

I am sure, from the debates we have had, that members of the medical profession, and many other people in the country, think that if this Bill is passed it will definitely encourage homosexuality. There is no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan—who, if I may say so, made a remarkable speech, both from the Christian point of view and from the point of view of his experience as Chief Scout for so many years—holds this view very strongly. I feel it is absolutely certain that the teenage boys who are likely to be tempted in this direction, if this Bill goes through will say: "Ah! Now we are 21, it is quite all right. It is legal."

The Church, through the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of St. Albans, have said that the supporters of this Bill do not want any relaxation of moral standards. I am sure that this is the view of the Church; I accept it, and I am glad that it is so. But if the supporters of this Bill do not want any relaxation of moral standards, they must have the law on their side as well. Then why produce this Bill? That is, I think, a complete non sequitur. I had a letter from a Bishop during the debates last summer who said that the Bishops were divided more or less in the same proportions as were the people in the country. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, has said that the country is now divided 60–40.


That is the opinion poll.


As the noble Lord says, that is the opinion poll. But we do not get any of the Bishops coming here to speak against the Bill. We have a wonderful attendance of Bishops tonight: it is the best attendance we have had since the Bill came up last time.

I want to say just one or two things further. We have heard from the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, references to the Merchant Service. Clause (1) of the Bill allows this act among those over 21. Then Clause 1(5) says: Subsection (1) of this section shall not prevent an act from being an offence (other than a civil offence) under any provision of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 or the Naval Discipline Act 1957. Since that subsection was put into the Bill—and I entirely agree with it—I have thought that it shot the whole principle of the Bill to pieces, because what is good for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force—and I hope for the Merchant Service—should also be good for ordinary civilians.

I want to quote only one other figure. I think the noble Earl, Lord Arran, said that the majority of the House of Lords was in favour of this Bill. On October 28, 96 Peers voted in favour of this Bill—and I must say I am ashamed to note how few voted against it. However 96 Peers voted in favour of the Bill, and at the present time there are 1,016 Peers entitled to sit in this House if they want to. That is all I have to say. I hope we shall have a Division, and that this Bill will be defeated.

7.9 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in the arguments he has put forward, and to congratulate him on having the good sense and the courage to introduce this Bill once again. There is no doubt from the debate we have had that there is a clear-cut division in the House, and I doubt whether any of us will convince others to a different way of thinking. But those who hold the views that I do can, I think, without doubt, point first of all to a marked shift in public opinion over the last few years. I think we can also claim there is a good chance that reform along the lines of Wolfenden will give better protection to the young people in the future. I think it will make the path a great deal easier for those who are trying to get help to deal with what they themselves feel is a very difficult personal problem. This certainly is the view which has been expressed by anybody who has had experience of universities. I feel that it must inevitably reduce the considerable amount of blackmail which has surrounded this problem for a very long time.

In addition, as I said on a previous occasion, research is tending to show that the development of the homosexual condition, and the form which it takes, may well depend on the events in a person's life, and the attitude which society adopts towards that condition. There is evidence that the present law itself can in some cases be a direct cause of homosexuality. It is certainly true that not all homosexuals are born, and this is why we want homosexual reform; to see whether we can reduce the number of people who have this problem, and who immediately find themselves within the ambit of the criminal law. In my view it is high time that the law was changed.

It is also important to recognise—as I should have hoped the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, would have recognised, having read Mr. Michael Schofield's book from cover to cover—that there is now the suggestion that the child-molesting homosexual and the adult homosexual, as we have known him in the past, are quite different phenomena. In new circumstances, and in a new atmosphere, there may well be a great and hopeful line of research which will show us that we can differentiate along that road. To those who say that this Bill legalises vice, that it will lead to social decline, and that it will do harm, I should like to say this. If I understand homosexual practices, then I find them abhorrent. But I find the law full of injustice; I find it full of stupidity as it stands at the present time, and my sympathy goes out to any such minority who are oppressed in this fashion. But when I find that research is tending to indicate that the present law is doing positive harm, and that a Committee as powerful as Wolfenden reported along these lines, then I believe it is right and proper that we should see that law changed.

I respect the honesty and sincerity of the opinions which have been put forward by the people who take a different view from myself. But they are just views, as mine are. I would say to our opponents that their views are getting further and further away from the sociological research results which are being shown, and further and further away from public opinion, as we are able to judge it. As for male prostitutes, who have been mentioned on three occasions to-night, I should have thought that, where satisfying relationships can legally be entered into by adults in private, the attraction of the male prostitute must as a result diminish quite considerably.

I want to make only one more point on the merits of this case, and that is the suggestion which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. I think he said that the introduction of a measure of this sort was bringing this House into disrepute.




Contempt—even worse. I must protest at that, as a relatively new Life Peer. I would say that I am quite shocked that anybody should hold that view, and it shows how out of touch the noble Lord is with public opinion. This House has gained tremendously in reputation for the courage it has had in the case of homosexual reform, capital punishment and abortion law reform. This is a House which has demonstrated that it is understanding of the problems which are facing the people of this century. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, said, it is a House which is in touch with change, and this is where I believe we can do a tremendous amount of good in the social reform that is needed in the corning years.


If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I think I said that I was repeating what had been said to me by people in various walks of life, which is the case. Only last night was one occasion.


That is very interesting. I take it, from what he said, that the noble Lord agrees that this is bringing this House into contempt. Does he or does he not?


I do.


Then I can only tell him he is completely out of touch with the people of this country as a whole. He may have some very odd friends who meet him every Monday night, and tell him these odd stories. Let him ask the editors of the newspapers—




They are practically all Conservative to-day. Let him ask the universities, the professions and the people who are in touch with public opinion, not in his own club, or wherever he goes on Monday nights to meet these Bishops.


My Lords, if I may interrupt again, I suggest that we might ask the Clerk to read Standing Order No. XXIX, relating to "Asperity of Speech".


If this is to be regarded as asperity of speech, I think perhaps we ought to have a clearer definition. If I have offended the noble Lord in the way in which I have spoken, then I must withdraw. But I do not withdraw the comment.


Then I am satisfied.


My Lords, there is one final point that I should like to make. I should have thought that with a measure of this sort there was a strong case for affording Government time for a Bill at the very start of a new Parliament. Subjects like homosexual law reform raise a certain amount of emotion, and the best time to test the Houses on a measure of this sort is, in my view, at the beginning of a Parliament when there is time for the Bill to be looked at objectively and in a detached way and for it to he put into law, so that one can see how it works. I have every confidence that this Bill will work. I should like to see it tested in another place this Session, and not left for two, three, or four years towards the end of the Parliament, when one knows that the charged atmosphere of a General Election is coming forward.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, as between the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and my noble friend Lord Ferrier, I incline to the view of my noble friend. Like him I voted against this measure before. Like him, I think I registered a silent vote, and, like him, I am grateful for the opportunity of putting to your Lordships, however briefly, the considerations which weigh with me.

I am not shocked in any way by this Bill. I do not have anything but the greatest respect for the noble Earl, Lord Arran, for the faithfulness with which he has followed a cause in which he believes, and for the compassion which everything he has said has shown, as my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir said earlier. I do not believe that the law regarding homosexuality is satisfactory from the point of the homosexual. I very much doubt whether, in some cases, the prosecution, the imprisonment, and so on, does anything but harm. In the only case with which I have had any close personal relationship—and it was a tragic case, affecting somebody for whom I had the highest respect—I am quite certain that the op ration of the existing law did not help him. Indeed, I think that he might have been helped if the law had been different—but I do not know.

In spite of that, I am against this Bill, and I am against it for this simple reason: that in it—and I think in all the other measures which the noble Lord, Lord Byers, quoted as showing the enlightenment of this House—we have been far too much concerned with the effect upon the criminal, or, at any rate, upon the object of our sympathy, and far too little concern with the effect upon society.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit me to say so, that charge was made in the capital punishment debate, and I think we can say there are many of us—indeed, I should say all of us—who cannot be accused of being guilty of that sort of consideration.


Capital punishment is another case, and perhaps I could just say this, as the noble Lord has raised the subject: I voted for the abolition of the death penalty. I am not sure now that I voted correctly. I voted for that Bill because I did not think that capital punishment had any direct deterrent effect upon a potential murderer. But to go back to the point I was making when the noble Lord intervened, I think that Act, combined with the other measures to which the noble Lord referred, has had a very dangerous effect upon society, because the tendency of all the measures which we have passed in recent years has been to diminish the responsibility of the individual for his own acts, and I do not see how anybody can deny that. That has been the tendency and I think it has been a disastrous one. We have only to look at the newspapers—the moors trial, anything you like—to see the effect of that tendency. In every field, whether it is in literature, in what old fashioned people used to call "pornography", or the death penalty, or this tragic subject which we have been discussing this afternoon, Parliament has come in and said, "Do not worry; you are not responsible. It is the law that is wrong".

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, in a most interesting speech this afternoon, said we had to recognise that society was a new thing; that in our own boyhood before the Great War, and I hope that when we were young men, society was confined to the individuals who composed it. Now, vast numbers of people who were then outside society are a living part of society and they are setting their own standards. The noble Lord said they will not any longer put up with advice from their betters. I wonder whether they are wise in that? I wonder whether we are wise to encourage them in that view? I wonder whether there are any of us who would not benefit from advice from our betters, and in particular—I am not thinking of social classes or wealth or anything else—I wonder whether we should not, all of us, benefit if we paid a little more attention to the accumulated wisdom of the past and the experience of mankind, and relied a little less on our own cleverness, which, God knows!, is landing us in a most terrible predicament.


My Lords, may I take up a remark made by the noble Lord, before he sits down? While thanking him for his most courteous reference to my speech, I would point out that the point I was trying to make is that it is not always wise to try to enforce moral standards by law. Would the noble Lord not agree that while the Victorian age was one of the severest in its moral code and its standards, it is nevertheless odd that this country in the Victorian age had the highest rate of child prostitution of any country in Europe?


My Lords, may I ask one further question? The question of male prostitution has been raised on more than one occasion in this debate.


Not by me.


No, not by the noble Lord but by other speakers. Would the noble Lord not be inclined to agree that these creatures live mainly by blackmail and nothing else?


My Lords, having listened by my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir earlier in the debate, I was assured by him that this blackmail aspect of the problem is very much exaggerated. May I revert to what the noble Lord, Lord Annan asked me? Of course I agree. Horrible things went on in Victorian times: evils and corruption and wickedness and sin of every kind. But what seems so appalling to me is that in those days these things stemmed from conditions which could produce nothing else, whereas the corruption and the wickedness of our own day is stemming from the Welfare State. I think there is all the more reason for the law to give a backing and a sanction to morality in conditions as they are to-day.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat may I ask him whether he can define a little more clearly what he means when he refers to "our betters" from whom we are to take advice, and how we are to recognise these "betters"?


I am sorry; I am afraid my noble friend—if he will allow me, my noble connection—was not listening to me. I defined "our betters" as those who had gone before us and I said that we should all of us do well to pay attention to the accumulated wisdom and experience of the past. It was not I who used the phrase originally; it was the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and I was taking him up on it.


Would the noble Lord agree that many of those who have gone before us were not our betters but were in fact malefactors?


My Lords, I do not think we can pursue this argument indefinitely, but I would ask the noble Lord to read the works of Edmund Burke, and I think he will understand what I mean.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am not going to enter into this argument, or, indeed, into any of the arguments to which I have listened over the last four hours. I believe that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in introducing his Bill, said that when Mr. Humphry Berkeley introduced it in another place in the last Parliament he did so without altering a single comma. My Lords, they did not even correct the misprint.


My Lords, with great respect I think I said "a single word". Am I wrong?


There was one word, but I am happy to assure the noble Earl, Lord Arran, that it has now been corrected. However, the point I wished to make was that we are now considering essentially the same Bill which your Lordships considered very closely for many days in all its stages and to which, in all essentials, noble Lords gave a very substantial majority. On behalf of the Government I have again to say that on this Private Member's Bill, which has excited to-day such deep feelings, and in some cases passionately expressed feelings, the role of the Government is a neutral one, but we shall continue to give such help as your Lordships need with regard to the drafting of any Amendments.

Having heard, I think, nearly every word of all the previous discussions in the last Parliament on this subject and almost every word of the Second Reading Debate, I am bound to say, expressing a purely personal opinion, that this debate has been less satisfactory than those which preceded it, because to-day we have concentrated far less on the contents of the Bill, and what it proposes to do, than we did on the last occasion, when we went into it very deeply and thoroughly, and when the House delivered a decisive verdict.

I can appreciate that on a subject such as this we all have deep feelings, but I regret that at times those feelings have seemed to overcome some noble Lords to the extent that they appeared to think that other noble Lords who did not share their views were in some ways less worthy. It would never be my role to suggest what anyone's Christian duty was: that is a matter for each individual to decide for himself. But, again expressing a purely personal view, as a very ordinary member of the Anglican Church, I can say that I am very glad that the most reverend Primate and a number of right reverend Prelates have considered it their Christian duty to come and express their views on this Bill in the way they have done. Apart from saying that, I propose to devote my remarks to dealing only with points raised in the debate.

The first is a question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Kilmuir, by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans, regarding the position, if this Bill becomes an Act and if it is unchanged in this regard, in the Merchant Navy. The position as I understand it is that if homosexual acts on British merchant ships were no longer to he criminal offences the master of a British ship would have no sanction to employ against members of his crew who engaged in homosexual practices. The master has a Common Law power to arrest and confine any seaman or other person on his ship if he has reasonable cause for believing this is necessary for the preservation of good order and discipline or for the safety of the vessel. And certainly her Majesty's Government would never wish to do anything, or indeed, if they knew of it, allow anything to be done, which would interfere with that necessary right.

The master also has an ordinary Common Law right to dismiss a seaman from his ship, but he must obtain the sanction of a British consular officer before he discharges a seaman at a port outside the United Kingdom. These powers may at present be exercised by the master in respect of a seaman who commits a homosexual offence. But if both the Common Law and Statute Law are changed in respect of homosexual conduct between consenting adults, it is argued, as I understand it, that the master's Common Law powers will no longer be available in respect of such conduct on board ship. It is further argued that the position is different from that in the Armed Services, where disciplinary sanctions will still be available, for example, against conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.

There is a complication, as I indicated when I ventured to interrupt the noble and learned Earl, which makes it difficult to give clear advice as to the effect the Bill would have on life at sea. This is that the laws of Scotland and Northern Ireland apparently apply equally with the law of England on British ships, and the Bill is confined to England. It is therefore arguable that the master's powers would not be affected by the Bill, because he could invoke the law of Scotland instead of the law of England, as he may do now. This, of course, as the noble and learned Viscount was quick to notice, is an unattractive argument in the case of an English ship that trades from English ports and never visits Scotland. My case was that it is not an English ship but a British ship, subject to British law, and whichever port it trades at it will still rely on British law. But I do not want to rely on that argument alone in this case. We are looking into the legal position to see how it can be clarified.

There is one other thing I would say. It has been quite rightly said, and stressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that a great many young men are in the Merchant Navy; and I believe that about a quarter of all seamen in British ships are under 21. It is right to say at once that nothing in the noble Earl's Bill will affect the position with regard to homosexual practices in relation to people under 21. It relates only to such conduct by consenting adults in private. I am coming to the point the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, is going to raise. He is going to say that it would nevertheless be a bad influence on these young men, and I do not dispute that.

I think the noble Earl said parents may be reluctant to allow their sons to enter the Merchant Navy. I hope no parent at this moment will have the impression that this kind of situation is going to be allowed to arise because of this Bill in its final form. Therefore, I welcome what he said, and I undertake that the Government will give careful consideration to these problems in the light of all the views that have been expressed. We will seek to clarify the legal position and, if we may, advise the noble Earl, Lord Arran, before Committee stage, whether anything, and if so what, should be done to deal with this point which has quite rightly exercised the minds of several noble Lords.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, asked me two questions, one of which I have now answered. The second question he put to me—I took it down at the time, but if I have not it correctly he will correct me—was this: will it be a criminal offence if a number of people engage in promoting homosexual acts; will it be a conspiracy to effect a public mischief?


Homosexual acts in private.


I accept that. As I am sure he would expect me to say, a simple answer is not really possible. So much would turn on the nature of what he called "promotion" and whether the homosexual acts were in fact offences. If they were not it might not arise.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I am asking this question. If this Bill is passed, an act of homosexuality between consenting adults will not be contrary to the law. I am asking whether, if there were an agreement between a number of people to promote such acts, that would be a conspiracy to effect a public mischief or not.


As the noble and learned Viscount is aware, because he himself through an Amendment put some of the provisions in the Bill to guard against this, a great deal hinges on the particular case. He mentioned promotion. The noble and learned Viscount is well aware that if that promotion really meant a male brothel, then it would be covered in Section 5 of the Bill.


If I may interrupt again, I will not press the noble Lord for an answer to-night, but I would certainly press it at a later stage. If he boggles at the word "promotion", I will put it this way. If a number of people agreed together to encourage the commission of acts of homosexuality between adults, will that be a conspiracy to effect a public mischief?


I shall be very glad to look into that. But I assure the noble and learned Viscount that, after nine months of almost continuous work on the Abortion Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill, I do not boggle at any word in the English language.

I do not want to run away from the question, and certainly in Committee, when we get down to it, I should like to deal with this important point. But, as the noble and learned Viscount knows, the standard definition of the crime of conspiracy is that it is committed when two parties agree to pursue an unlawful purpose, or a lawful purpose by unlawful means; and an agreement to do acts which, though not offences, are outrageously immoral or extremely injurious to the public may constitute an agreement to pursue an unlawful purpose.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but this is so cognate. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, on a stage of the other Bill, spoke of clubs for this purpose. Would they be covered?


My Lords, we dealt with clubs in the Licensing Act. I myself put forward many Amendments in Opposition. But it is no use trying to give a general answer to this question. It would be necessary to look at the precise point of the particular club and the purpose for which it was being run. I am only trying to answer questions, but I seem to be getting as many interruptions as if I were being controversial. Again, as Lord Dilhorne will know, the law of conspiracy—the whole question of Common Law misdemeanours—is at present under review by the Criminal Law Revision Committee. I am quite sure that I have not wholely satisfied the noble and learned Viscount, but then neither he nor I thought that I should. We can take it up at a later stage.

I come to what I thought was the one remaining point that required an answer, as distinct from arguments which have been deployed—exactly the same arguments as have been deployed before: that is the point of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, about those persons who have been convicted of offences which would not be crimes if this Bill became law. First, I would question Lord Arran's estimate of about a hundred such people in prison. I asked for the figures prior to this debate. I am afraid that the statistics are necessarily compiled in accordance with the law as it is now, not in accordance with the law as it would be if this Bill were passed. Therefore, in our statistics there is no distinction between offences between consenting adults in private and other homosexual offences. The only thing we can turn to is the special study which was done for the Wolfenden Committee, when it was found that 108 such persons were sent to prison in a period of three years ending in 1956. Since the Committee reported, the practice has been introduced of the Director of Public Prosecutions being consulted about prosecutions for stale offences, those giving rise to blackmail, and offences between consenting adults in private. He confirmed this instruction to Chief Officers of Police in 1964, and therefore it is likely that those numbers have considerably diminished since the Wolfenden Committee looked at the matter in 1956.

But, as the noble Earl will appreciate, the point is really one of principle. It is a dangerous argument for a reformer to advance because the only way to avoid the uncertainties and transitional difficulties before a change in the law is made is not to change the law, nor institute reforms. In this country the only way to change the law is by Act of Parliament, not by a Bill which makes some progress, nor by a Report from a Committee.

The noble Earl mentioned landmarks. There are landmarks, such as the Wolfenden Report and, if I may say so, the passage of the noble Earl's Bill. But one cannot argue that because one of those landmarks has been reached, one must regard the law itself as having been changed. To me, the truly surprising feature about Lord Arran's Bill is not the delays which it has encountered but the rapidity of the progress it has made. If you compare the long and tortuous path of the Bill for the abolition of capital punishment, I find it difficult almost to believe now that it is only just over a year since the noble Earl put down a tentative Motion calling attention to the Wolfenden Report. Now many of us expect this Bill to reach the Statute Book in a matter of months.

I am more than ever convinced, particularly from the debate we have just had, that the real way to deal with questions of this kind is by Private Members' Bills. The Government have given drafting assistance, and will give more; and in so doing this Bill has been transformed from a declaration of intent into a viable piece of legislation. Progress has been so rapid that we should surely continue on the path which has taken this Bill so near to success, and not abandon this course and deal with the matter in some other way. Like, I imagine, most noble Lords, I am unable to dissociate the discussion we are now having from the Second Reading of the earlier Bill and our comparatively recent discussions in the previous Parliament. I recall the decisions that we then made, and I hope that we shall make further progress.

7.47 p.m.


My Lords, we have had our debate. I did not think it was such a bad debate. Perhaps there was nothing particularly new to say, but

at least those of us who feel strongly spoke strongly once again. As the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, this is a matter on which those of us who disagree will probably never agree. I must confess that I feel somewhat depressed by the sad things said by some noble Lords in regard to our youth. I do not believe that our youth is waiting to be corrupted, or is in any way corrupted, any more than it has ever been. I do not think that the country is "going to the dogs". I think—and perhaps this is an original thought—that our youth is perhaps a little selfish. But of course young people are always selfish.

I know that there are dangers in this Bill. There are dangers in all reform. I suppose there was a danger in the Bills for the abolition of hanging for sheep stealing and of slavery. These things seemed to a number of wise people at the time to be wrong; but they were done, and Britain survived and was the better for it. If your Lordships will courteously approve this Bill once again, which I am far from taking for granted, I propose to proceed further.

7.53 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill shall be now read 2a?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 70; Not-Contents, 29.

Addison, V. Devonshire, D. Plummer, B.
Airedale, L. Dunrossill, V. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Amherst, E. Effingham, E. Queensberry, M.
Annan, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Raglan, L.
Archibald, L. Faringdon, L. Reay, L.
Arran, E. [Teller.] Ferrers, E. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Asquith of Yarnbury, B. Gaitskell, B. Rothermere, V.
Audley, B. Gardiner, L. [L. Chancellor.] St. Albans, Bp.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Gladwyn, L. St. Just, L.
Barrington, V. Greenway, L. Segal, L.
Bedford, D. [Teller.] Gridley, L. Sherfield, L.
Boothby, L. Hertford, M. Sorensen, L.
Bowles, L. Jessel, L. Southwark, Bp.
Brockway, L. Kennet, L. Stonham, L.
Burden, L. Killearn, L. Strabolgi, L.
Byers, L. Kinross, L. Strang, L.
Canterbury, Abp. Lilford, L. Strathcarron, L.
Chichester, Bp. Lincoln, Bp. Swanborough, B.
Colgrain, L. Listowel, E. Terrington, L.
Collison, L. Longford, E. Wellington, D.
Colwyn, L. Monson, L. Winterbottom, L.
Darwen, L. Mottistone, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Derby, Bp. Mowbray & Stourton, L. Worcester, Bp.
Devonport, V.
Albemarle, E. Ferrier, L. Milverton, L.
Arwyn, L. Forster of Harraby, L. Oakshott, L.
Auckland, L. Fortescue, E. Rowallan, L.
Blyton, L. Glentanar, L. Saltoun, L.
Brocket, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Shepherd, L.
Champion, L. Horsbrugh, B. Simon, V.
Coleraine, L. Iddesleigh, E. Strathclyde, L.
Dilhorne. V. [Teller.] Kilmuir, E. [Teller.] Swansea, L.
Exeter, M. Lindgren, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Falmouth, V. MacAndrew, L.

Resolved in the affirmative. Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House.

House adjourned at one minute before eight o'clock.