HL Deb 16 February 1988 vol 493 cc585-643

9 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

Clause 28 [Prohibition on promoting homosexuality by teaching or by publishing material]:

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Airedale)

My Lords, before calling Amendment No. 72, I should say that if this amendment were to be agreed, I could not call Amendments Nos. 75, 77 and 78.

The Earl of Longford moved Amendment No. 72: Page 28, leave out lines 29 and 30.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the amendment would restrict the operation of Clause 28 to schools. Most Members of the House will have their own views, perhaps very individual views, about this difficult problem, which arouses such poignant feelings. I shall quickly state my own background. For many years I have been haunted by the problem, which will not go away whatever is decided tonight, of being kind, tolerant and fair to homosexuals without actively encouraging homosexuality among the young. That remains a basic problem. No one can get around it, but we must try to cope with it in an enlightened way.

Thirty years ago I opened a debate in the House in favour of the Wolfenden report, which at that time, I am sorry to say, another place would not touch with a bargepole because it was far too sensitive a matter. However, I opened that debate. I still think that I was on the right lines because 10 years later legislation followed, although not as a result of my efforts.

>At the end of 1986, I spoke in favour of a Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in an attempt to curb the excesses of some local authorities. At that time — I do not mean to recriminate — the Government were indifferent and somewhat hostile, or at any rate unfriendly, to that Bill. Now, for whatever reason — no doubt the coming of AIDS and the unpopularity in the community attaching to homosexuals has been a factor; I do not say that it is the only factor—the Government's attitude is totally different compared to what it was at the end of 1986. So much, therefore, for the past.

I am bringing forward an amendment which, despite some evidence to the contrary, I hope will command the support of the majority of your Lordships. After long debates on Second Reading and in Committee, I suppose that most Members of the House feel that something must be done to cope with the excesses of a few local authorities which have been referred to. "Something must be done" is a dangerous phrase. Such a phrase got the Duke of Windsor into trouble and led to his abdication some years ago. However, the general idea was that something had to be done.

On the other hand, even when they voted for the Bill many noble Lords, to my certain knowledge, did so with a heavy heart or a perplexed mind, because they recognised that there were possible dangers to the arts, to education and to the rights which at present are accorded under the law to male and female homosexuals. Many who voted for that measure would undoubtedly have liked to see something slightly different, but they felt that something had to be done.

I speak only for myself. I do not ask anyone else to agree with me. I think that all homosexual activity, as distinct from homosexual feelings, is morally wrong. However, I say the same of adultery, but no one suggests that we should launch a mass campaign against adultery; or at least I have not not heard anyone do so. If there is anyone, perhaps he would stand up and say so. I say that homosexuality is as wrong as it was in 1957 when I supported the Wolfenden report. To say that homosexuality is wrong is not an argument for saying that we must stamp it out by legislative action. Of course there are some who may think that that is not such a bad idea. Even those extremists may feel that this almost incidental clause which crept into a local government Bill is hardly the place to initiate a mass campaign against homosexuals.

Again, I speak only for myself when I say that I sympathise with the aims of Clause 28 in so far as they are for the protection of children. On Second Reading, I could not convince myself that the clause, as drafted, could be confined to that purpose. I could see a distinct and troubling possibility of danger to the culture, to education and to a minority of homosexuals. Therefore when it came to the vote I did something that I have not done for 40 years: I abstained. That course is usually regarded as cowardly. I do not know whether anyone has mentioned my abstention, but it was the only thing I could do compatible with my conscience. One can only resolve to try to suggest something better.

Today, I come forward in a moderately optimistic spirit. I would be more optimistic if the noble Earl had supplied me with any reason for optimism. I cannot pretend that he has encouraged me in any way. My optimism is therefore not quite what it was when I prepared my speech. I hope that the Government will agree—I shall press the noble Earl on this issue— that the basic object of Clause 28 is the protection of children. Either it is or it is not. I must ask him whether that is the basic object of Clause 28; or is it something else? Is it a general queer-bashing campaign?

So far as I can make out, many of those who voted for the clause at the last stage were under the impression that the protection of children was the basic object. I spoke to one of the most highly respected members of the Conservative Party, who cannot be here tonight, soon after the vote. I told him that I intended to move an amendment which would confine the operation of the clause to schools. He implied, "I thought that was the situation already", or words to that effect. Heaven knows how many people who voted for the clause thought it was in fact a clause to protect children.

The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in his resolute defence of the clause, laid his main emphasis on the danger to children. In his final speech before the vote the other day he picked out a particular brochure as epitomising the menace. I have not told him that I intended to quote his words but he will not be surprised if I do so. This is what he said: Most worrying of all the items on the brochure is a display of press cuttings, commentary and photographs of the battle for positive images of lesbians and gays in schools".—[Official Report, 2/2/88; col. 1018.] That was where the emphasis was laid by the noble Earl in his final speech in favour of the clause.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, in a speech which made a considerable impression not only on his and my co-religionists but more widely, laid a similar emphasis. The noble Duke, who cannot be here tonight, said that, some local authorities have been promoting homosexuality by teaching it in state maintained schools. This is a gross abuse of their duties and a breach of trust to the parents whose children are put in their charge".—[Official Report, 2/2/88; col 996.] That was where the emphasis lay in the speech of the noble Duke. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff— I mentioned to him that I might be quoting him — said something to the same effect. He said: We on this side of the Committee care first and foremost about children".—[Official Report, 2/2/88; col. 1014.] That is what the people who voted for this clause supposed themselves to be caring about— children. I cannot see how anyone taking that point of view can possibly object to what I am putting forward. It seems to me to be simple enough for anyone to understand. Certainly, on the face of it, it goes a long way towards protecting the children of our country. That can be achieved if this amendment is agreed to. The clause can go forward without any threat to the arts or human rights of any section of the adult community.

I am bound to say— I hope this is not too provocative— that anybody who votes against this amendment is saying that they have some wider purpose than the protection of children. I hope that in the course of the debate we shall know what it is. I hope that that view will not prevail. I beg to move the amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I intervene at this stage solely to try and help the House. There are a number of amendments on this subject and I understand that a form of grouping has been agreed. I hope that if your Lordships are agreeable we should take the amendments of the noble Earl, Amendments Nos. 72, 86 and 88. Then we should take Amendments Nos. 73 to 75, 78, 80, 81 and possibly 104, depending on the views of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. Then we should take Amendment No. 76 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, followed by the government Amendments Nos. 77 and 85 and Amendment No. 87, then Amendments Nos. 79, 82 and 83 as a group. Then we should take Amendments Nos. 84, 89, 90 and 91 on their own. It is in order to be helpful that I mention that at this stage.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I intervene to make sure that I have understood. The noble Earl is suggesting that we should take my main amendment and one or two subsidiary amendments first on their own. I would not agree to anything else; I believe I have my rights.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is exactly as I understood the situation, because the noble Earl, Lord Longford, wished to take his amendment separately. I gather that his Amendments Nos. 86 and 88 are consequential on Amendment No. 72 which he has just moved.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I do not think this proposed grouping could be said to have been agreed because I certainly was not consulted. I did not receive my copy of the groupings until half-past seven tonight. I would have wished to reserve my right to move any amendments I deem suitable to be moved separately rather than have them grouped as the noble Earl has proposed.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I think that the proposed grouping is sensible. I should like to support it. If the House is agreeable, I should like to say a word in support of the amendment of my noble friend.

I must begin by saying that I am in favour of the amendments to which I have added my name rather than the whole of the speech which my noble friend made in support of those amendments. He and I frequently disagree on some measures; but in spite of that we form a rather exclusive mutual admiration society of two because even when either of us is doing things with which the other one profoundly disagrees, we rather like the way that the other does it. Therefore we manage to get along all right. But as regards this matter, at this stage as we see it— or rather as I see it, because I must only speak for myself— we are at the damage limitation stage.

For myself I dislike the clause as a whole but at this stage in the development of the Bill we have already discussed the clause as a whole. Therefore, as I see it, what these two clauses seek to achieve and what I am now seeking to achieve is precisely that— damage limitation. It seems to me that, although I dislike the clause as a whole, I should nonetheless support this amendment and I have made that clear by putting my name to it.

I believe that my noble friend is right and that a lot of people may very well have supported this clause under the misapprehension which was so clearly explained to the House. Under these circumstances it seems to me to be entirely right and entirely proper that two amendments which seek to rectify that particular point should come before the House. Without any further ado or explanation or reasons why, I wish to say that it is my fervent wish that the House will decide by supporting this amendment to limit the provision to what I think many of us would support although I would not necessarily include myself among them. I hope that the provision will be limited and therefore that the Government will implement a clause which many of us thought was limited already in that respect.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of the noble Earl and to say that Amendments Nos. 86, 87 and 88 could I think be taken with this amendment. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney; I regard this amendment as a damage limitation exercise.

I gather from what the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, said in Committee that it was not the intention of the Government that Clause 28 should, for instance, impose censorship by the back door. The noble Earl was at pains to say that in his belief the fears expressed were unfounded. However a number of us were not persuaded and pointed to the ways in which we thought censorship could creep in.

I do not propose to rehearse those arguments but I do believe that the only effective way of allaying our fears about censorship is for the House to accept this amendment which, as the noble Earl said when he moved it, confines the clause to schools. That also is I believe the purpose of Amendment No. 73 on the Marshalled List which is due to be moved later.

I should at this stage say what I understood to be the fundamental purpose of the Bill which was introduced into this House by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. But even the limited objectives of that Bill were not acceptable to the Government. The Government's response to that Bill was to my mind exactly right. I cannot understand what has made them change that advice which they gave to the House. They said that his Bill was unnecessary and inappropriate. Those words were used both by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, who were speaking advisedly and on behalf of the Government. I ask the noble Earl specifically what has caused the Government to change their mind.

I find it interesting to examine the words of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. I wish to quote what was said on behalf of the Government. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said: This Bill seeks to add a new section to Part II of the Local Government Act 1986, a part which…is concerned with the regulation of local authority publicity…provisions to stop local authorities promoting homosexuality do not sit easily alongside the existing party political prohibition".—[Official Report, 18/12/86; col. 333]. If that was said only a year ago why is it considered that a clause providing for the prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality should sit easily alongside Clause 27 which is about the prohibition of party political publications'? There has been a change of mind within one year. The Bill contains exactly the matters which were considered to be inappropriate a year ago. To quote further: It is by no means clear to me"— I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was speaking— that local authorities are empowered to promote homsexuality in their publicity, as opposed to providing some forms of information". That was clear to the noble Lord, who was speaking from the Front Bench only one year ago. Why is it not clear to noble Lords now? What has caused the change of mind on the part of the Government?

Section 4 of the Education Act 1986 is relevant. It could be of direct assistance to the objectives of the noble Earl. That section enables his right honourable friend to issue a code of recommended practice as regards matters such as the content, style, distribution and cost of local authority publicity. He went to to say: The code will, in due course, be placed before your Lordships' House for approval. Your Lordships may well think, with me, that this code should contain clear principles to be observed on the questions we are debating today".—[Official Report, 18/12/86; col. 334.] Why has it not been possible to proceed by way of a code of practice which has been incorporated in legislation and which has been given clear legal force and effect in the Bill now before us? That was announced by the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on Second Reading. It was contained in the Explanatory Memorandum and it is plainly stated in Clause 27 of the Bill. Why cannot those provisions be used, as the Government said they could only a year ago'?

I think that we are entitled to know what has made the Government change their mind. Why are the matters which were then thought to be sufficient now found to be insufficient? It is important for the Government to state clearly the mischiefs which the subsection is designed to catch. Why add to the panoply already available and why place the clause immediately following Clause 27 when, in the Government's own words, it does not sit easily alongside that previous clause?

In my view, it is the duty of the Government to come clean and state openly why they are extending the scope of the Halsbury Bill to prohibit or inhibit local authority contributions to adult homosexual clubs, for instance, so that in effect they can only have their money if they refrain from promoting homosexuality— whatever that may mean, and it is the subject of a later amendment standing in my name.

I have not quoted all the arguments which were adduced by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper. Perhaps it would strain the patience of the House if I did so. It will suffice to say that they both said that legislation was unnecessary and inappropriate. They gave their reasons for saying that. I should like to add one more reason. Some of the objectionable material which has been brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, could easily be amenable to prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act. With those powers available, what is the justification for bringing the clause and, in particular, the subsection before the House? I support the amendment moved by the noble Earl.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I oppose the amendment, which seeks to excise the first limb of Clause 28 notwithstanding that in principle Clause 28 stood part by a very substantial majority in that form.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton — always persuasive and ever convincing— rehearses all the same arguments that your Lordships heard at Committee stage; not so the noble Earl, Lord Longford, whose contributions are always refreshing and individual and always sincerely made. The noble Earl expressly recognised the interaction between paragraphs (a) and (b) which are the first and second limbs of Clause 28. During the passage of the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, he made a most courageous and memorable contribution. Of course anyone is free to change his mind but he accepted then that (a), the first limb, which by his amendment he now seeks to excise, was of general application and included within the scope of its prohibitions the intentional promotion of homosexuality in schools other than the kind expressly prohibited by (b), the second limb. That interaction, which we shall come to presently, is emphasised by the recognition of the government amendment, Amendment No. 85.

In the friendliest possible way, I say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that there was no question of "queer-bashing" in the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, which he supported. There is no question of "queer-bashing" today; nor indeed has there ever been.

We are concerned, and always have been concerned, with an abuse of rates by this type of conduct generally and in schools. It is not a question of bashing anybody; it is a question of protecting the ratepayer. At least that is how we see it. We see it sincerely, without emotion and, one hopes, without any unkindness or want of objectivity.

One must always examine the arguments. What are the objections to the first limb? The first category of objection is that it is dangerous and unnecessary. That was the view expressed by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York whom I do not see in his place. He was expressing a view for which he rightly claimed the support of many noble Lords, including expressly the noble Lords, Lord Hatch of Lusby and Lord Graham of Edmonton and, up to a point, Lord McIntosh of Haringey and Lord Hutchinson of Lullington.

The second category of objection is that the first part of the clause is "totally unnecessary". Those words are taken from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, on the Arts Council amendment.

The third objection— and there is only one more, having combed Hansard for the highest common factor of objections— was that this limb uses the word "promotion"— the subject matter of the subsequent amendment on drafting of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton— in relation to the abstract concept of homosexuality not in conjunction with concrete objects or objectives. I am referring to the objection in Hansard.

The last objection is that the incidence of this clause will adversely affect theatrical productions, voluntary bodies, counselling services and so forth, as those fears were expressed on the Arts Council amendment. If we examine the first head of objection with total objectivity, the most reverend Primate conceded very fairly that Clause 28 deals with a very serious problem— the promotion of homosexuality by a local authority. He went on to say that this justified the introduction of legislation.

Yet against those concessions he stigmatised Clause 28 as dangerous and unnecessary. This was by a process of reasoning akin to that which could condemn the keeping of a house dog as dangerous and unnecessary because when the dog is attacked by intruders it defends itself. By some curious process of logic, he would prefer to leave the house unguarded against further intrusions. Surely this stands the whole argument on its head, because but for the motivated attack upon the traditions of local government which raised this very serious problem, the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, would never have seen the light of day to pass in your Lordships' House. If it had not, Clause 28 would never have found its way into this Bill.

The most reverend Primate, using the terms "evil"— it was he who used it, albeit in a relative context— said in terms that the clause had the support of certain noble Lords. He preferred to countenance the continuance of the activities sought to be proscribed by Clause 28— that is to say the local authority going over the top— as a lesser evil to the greater evil of government interference in the affairs of local government. Those are two sides of the argument. I hope that I have stated them fairly. Surely it is wrong on that ground to have any real or sane objection to the clause.

The second and third categories of objection can be dealt with together. They emanate from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton.

9.30 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord. Is he going to deal at all with my amendment?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, the essence of the noble Lord's amendment is to excise the first part of Clause 28, contrary to the principle established by the agreement that the clause stand part. Furthermore, that would be contrary to his own support for the interaction between these two clauses on the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.

If I am not mistaken, the noble Earl's amendment is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. If I am right in saying that, then the noble Lord is rehearsing many of the arguments already rehearsed at Committee stage and surely it is reasonable to deal with them. Those arguments go to the essence of the noble Earl's amendment. All I have to say, having dealt with the first ground of objection, is that the second and third grounds are totally unnecessary and that the objection that Clause 28 seeks to proscribe an abstract concept of homosexuality is equally ill-founded. Words must of course be construed in their true context—and so construed, any intentional conduct by any local authority to promote homosexuality is no more abstract or separated from matter or practice within that or any other dictionary definition.

The last objection is that concerning the fears of the Arts Council and voluntary bodies. As regards that, it has been emphasised over and over again by many Members on all sides— including my noble friends the Minister and Lord Boyd-Carpenter; the noble Lady. Lady Saltoun; and even myself —that nothing in this first limb prohibits any local authority from giving financial assistance for any of the purposes that have been called into question; namely, theatrical productions, art exhibitions, books in public libraries, counselling and advisory services, and the work of voluntary bodies.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, the noble Lord is telling the House about all the things that the clause does not do. Since I understand that he is at least part author and probably the main author of this clause, can he not answer the noble Earl's question: what does it do beyond protecting children? If it only protects children, then why is the second part not sufficient?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, does the noble Lord ask me to answer that question? The second part is not sufficient because, as I have sought to explain, the first part applies generally to abuse of responsbiility in the promotion of homosexuality, and it applies to the type of situation envisaged by my noble friend Lady Cox, who widened the second limb to teaching. It would cover that—teaching in schools — and the first limb can cover conduct in schools as well as the general application outside schools. The second limb is concerned only with the specific type of conduct in schools. I hope that I have answered the noble Lord.

Noble Lords


Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, time goes on and if I have not done so then the House must judge. On examination of all the objections, there is no reason whatever for the excision of the first limb, and to do so would defeat the general efficacy of the prohibition and would run counter to the decision of the House on clause stand part.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, I think that I can help the House by reminding the noble Earl that he does not have a monopoly in going back to the days of the Wolfenden report; I too was there. One of the findings of that report was that people's sexual orientation was not fixed at any particular age but that it more or less stabilised around the middle 20s. If one confines that fact solely to the protection of those whom the noble Earl has called "children", they could leave school at the age of 16 and still be open to seduction by those enlisted by local authorities on the grounds that it was a perfectly legitimate exercise because it was not being conducted in school. I believe that that is wrong and it is why the two limbs—as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway— are needed. This should be stopped both inside and outside school.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend Lord Henderson, but I largely agree with my noble friend Lord Halsbury. I contend that Amendment No. 72 would give us the worst of all worlds. It would confine the restrictions which are to be imposed by Clause 28 solely to the question of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship, whatever that curious phrase may mean. Thereby it implies that promiscuous homosexual relationships—such as those which, until recently, were said to be found in the bathhouses of San Francisco and New York in which men were said to have sexual relations with 200 or 300 different men every year—are in some way preferable to stable, quasi-family homosexual relationships. Given the AIDS epidemic, that must appear to most people to be quite insane.

Surely it is the case that Clause 28 has two quite distinct objectives. The first and more important objective is to prevent the corruption of children and adolescents. The well-drafted Amendment No. 73, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, goes a long way towards achieving the first objective, though perhaps not the whole way. However, it does nothing to help in achieving the second, albeit perhaps less important, objective of preventing unwilling ratepayers from having to subsidise one specific form of sexual deviation, and one only. After all, if one is to have gay pride weeks on the rates, why not bondage pride weeks? The possible permutations are endless.

Amendment No. 72 does not achieve the second objective, and there may be noble Lords who consider that to be a good thing. I do not mind too much about that. However, it does not achieve to any extent the first and more important objective, as my noble friend Lord Halsbury has pointed out—that of protecting young people and adolescents.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Longford. I should be happy if its acceptance meant that it was not necessary for me to move Amendment No. 76, which I regard to be second best. Surely it is the case that the one new serious threat to society which has necessitated new legislation, whether tabled by my noble kinsman, Lord Halsbury, or by the Government, was that the practise of homosexuality was being encouraged and condoned in schools. That is the one case for which legislative action is necessary. If my noble friend's amendment were accepted it would mean that the prohibition was confined only to that teaching in schools, as I believe many noble Lords thought it to be; and that is what we should see.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, I find myself in considerable difficulty. I hope that your Lordships will think it sensible if I briefly share that difficulty. I do not suppose that I can be alone in finding this cat's cradle of amendments before the House exceedingly confusing. I have gone far enough to understand that there are two later amendments which are consequential upon this amendment. I have also gone so far as to understand that if this amendment were to be agreed the next five amendments, or thereabouts, would not be applicable because the words that they seek to amend would by then have disappeared. Further than that, I am in a state of confusion because among the amendments which would disappear if this amendment were to be passed are matters which I rather like. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said that to abstain on such a Motion is usually regarded as cowardice. Occasionally one can abstain not simply because one is cowardly but because one is flummoxed. However, it is not simply that I am flummoxed.

As I understand it—I sat through every word of the debate in Committee—two elements united all parts of the Chamber. One was that the wilder shores of local government behaviour should somehow be controlled and that no one wished to see local government proselytising for, commending or advocating homosexuality, particularly to the young. For my own part I do not particularly wish to see local government advocating it to any age. I do not particularly wish to see it advocating any form of sexuality. It seems to me that it is not its business. That I imagine was felt in general by most Members of the Committee.

What I sensed that almost all the Committee felt was that the Bill must not to be allowed to erode the reputation for ordinary tolerance and compassion or indeed the rights of the individual on which the country so prides itself. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, frequently reassured the Committee that the intention of the Bill was in no way to do so. Those two elements, I sensed, were uniting the Committee in spite of a very complicated and often hard-fought debate.

However, when I look at the Bill, it seems to me that it does very well for the former but not so well for the latter. I think that for one precise reason. The entire force of the Bill, particularly in the first two clauses, which are the important ones, depends upon the word "promoting" or "promotion". With the greatest deference to the learning of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I still find that that single word is too vague. I looked down the list of amendments with some interest. I noted, for example, in Amendment No. 74, which would disappear if Amendment No. 72 should be agreed to, the word "commend". Suddenly I begin to see that the word "commend" had a force in it that "promote" does not. It is more precise. I should have quite liked to see the word "adocate", which seems precise.

It is therefore upon grounds of precision that I find myself in difficulty about the clause. I know not whether to support the amendment to leave out the clause or not to support it so as to be able to speak to amendments which contain other solutions that I prefer.

That is probably the most inconclusive speech that noble Lords will have to suffer this evening. I hope that at least it puts before the House a difficulty that I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, is of course right in saying that he may move any of his amendments singly or in a group. I was only trying to be helpful. Indeed, I took no part in the grouping that was going on while we were in discussion on the Bill. I know that those who were trying to put some order into this rather convoluted mass of amendments tried to contact the noble Lord: they sought him here, they sought him there, but they did not find him. This was put forward in a spirit of co-operation. Of course the noble Lord is right in what he has said.

Perhaps I may put to bed a myth that the noble Lord tried to perpetuate—namely, that the Government's views on this matter have changed. Of course they have not. They have been consistent throughout. Both my noble friends made it clear at an earlier stage that the Government entirely supported the purpose of the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, as indeed did my right honourable and honourable friend, in another place when it was discussed before the last election.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was right to point out in opening the debate that there are many individual approaches to homosexuality. The question raises some sensitive issues and I know that many of your Lordships have given long and serious thought to the drafting of Clause 28. The Government share the noble Earl's objective of ensuring that the legislation is drafted in a clear way. We have common cause in wanting to get it right. Amendments Nos. 77 and 85, tabled in my name, which we shall be debating later, are evidence of the Government's wish to meet legitimate concerns.

The Government begin from the proposition that it has not and never has been the role of local authorities to promote homosexuality. In recent years there has been evidence that some councils—a small minority of councils, it is true, but nevertheless an active and committed group—have decided that it is appropriate to use ratepayers' and taxpayers' money to attempt to influence public attitudes towards homosexuality and homosexuals.

No one is denying that homosexuals are entitled to council services on the same basis as all other electors and ratepayers. There is no case for any public authority discriminating against anyone solely on the grounds of either sexual orientation, or seeking to persuade others to do so. However, this clause is designed to deal with the other side of that particular coin —that it is not right, either, for a local authority to favour particular persons or groups on the grounds of their sexual orientation or to promote that sexual orientation at the public expense. There seems to be a wide consensus that there is a problem to deal with. This is borne out by the fact that the concerns about the provision relate more to its possible unintended effects than to its basic objective. It is generally agreed, therefore, that something must be done.

The Government have naturally considered very carefully the views that have been put to us from both outside and inside Parliament. We have looked with care at each of the suggestions that have been made for approaching the problem from a different angle, for clarifying the drafting and for putting it beyond doubt that legitimate activities will not be affected. We have made some important amendments which remove any question that we are concerned with anything but the intention of a local authority in carrying out any activity. I will respond to the detailed provisions as we come to them, but I can say now that we believe that the terms of prohibition are properly focused and clearly set out.

The issue raised by the amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is whether it would be right to limit the prohibition to certain activities of local authorities in relation to schools. Let me please explain why the Government believe that this would not do. We are clear that the most acute public concern arises from the policies of some local education authorities for presenting positive images of homosexuality in the classroom. Those policies have bred understandable fear and resentment in parents whose children's education is in the hands of these councils. That was one of the reasons why the Government took steps under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to remove responsibility for sex education from local authorities. The Act gave that responsibility to governing bodies of schools, on which parents now have a substantial representation.

Local education authorities have a general responsibility under the 1986 Act to state their policy on the secular curriculum and this may include reference to sex education. Governors must have regard to the authority's statement in deciding what sex education their schools provide, but they are in no way bound by it. The 1986 Act also places a duty on local education authorities, the governors and head teachers to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that any sex education is given, in such manner as to encourage those pupils to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life''. In practice, therefore, a prohibition limited to what local authorities may do in relation to schools would have very little additional effect except perhaps of a presentational kind. Action to stop the real damage that might be done through sex education in schools on the instruction of the local education authority has already been substantially taken.

There is a further argument against the noble Earl's approach. The proposed Section 2A(1)(b) alone has an extremely narrow effect. On its own it is inadequate to achieve the basic objective of stopping local authorities encouraging teachers to promote homosexuality. As my noble friend Lady Cox pointed out in Committee, the proposed section deals only with one very narrow aspect of promoting homosexuality: promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. It is only an emphasis to one aspect of the general prohibition in paragraph (a), not a general substitute for it.

However, there is a further reason for refusing to accept the noble Earl's proposal which rests on a matter of fundamental principle. It is quite clear to us that the problem of local authorities promoting homosexuality is not one confined to schools. I entirely accept that much of the concern expressed in our debates on this issue is related to schools and the effect of local authorities' policies on pupils in the classroom. This is certainly the aspect of the problem that has led to widespread public resentment.

However, although public concern has been understandably heightened by the education policies of some councils we believe that the public in general shares our view that young people are susceptible to these intolerable influences in many other contexts. Public money has been used in a number of other ways which target on young people in an apparent endeavour to glamorise homosexuality; for example, general local authority support for homosexual youth groups. One of these, the South London Gay and Lesbian Group, caters for the leisure, social and personal needs of young lesbian and gay people in the age range 16 to 21, which of course is the age range, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said, of those who have left school. It does so by organising discos, discussion groups and social events which bring gay young people together. Activities such as a lesbian and gay strength and pride week are, in the Government's view, as least as likely to achieve the aim of glamorising homosexuality in the minds of impressionable young people as anything a teacher might do in the classroom.

The Government therefore do not accept the argument that this clause should be limited to schools. That would be tantamount to saying that activities designed to promote homosexuality in the classroom are wrong but it is perfectly legitimate for the same purpose to finance at public expense promotion in an informal social setting. I have children coming up to a particularly impressionable age. I do not want them to be exposed to such situations, and I hope that on reflection neither will the noble Earl.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I apologise for following the Minister. I confess that I was taken aback because I did not realise that he was going to rise to his feet so early. I shall not abuse my position by asking him further questions or commenting on what he said. However, I believe it is incumbent on me to say something from the Front Bench, even in a personal capacity; because, as is well known, we have no Whip on this matter.

The Minister will recall that immediately after the debate two weeks ago I went to see him and expressed the view that a number of people in the House were unhappy about the way in which Clause 28 had to be debated in Committee. I believe that I reflected views on many sides of the Chamber when I said that many people felt that the two choices that we had—the first one being the valiant attempt by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, to redraft the whole clause, and the second one being to fall back on a vote on clause stand part—did not really reflect the variety of views that had been expressed in the Committee. A number of people—I am not talking particularly about people on the Opposition Benches—were left with a feeling that there must be further attempts to refine, elucidate and improve the wording of the clause. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Longford has done just that, and I am surprised that he should be attacked for repeating previous arguments. I thought he did exactly the contrary.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I did not do that. I only said that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, had repeated previous arguments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am surprised that supporters of the amendment should be accused of repeating previous arguments, particularly when they were accused in a speech of such length which exactly repeated the arguments made at Second Reading and in Committee.

If one looks back at the debate which took place in Committee, two matters are quite striking. The first is that 99 per cent. of the defence of Clause 28 was a defence of the clause as it relates to schools and school children, and to some extent to young people out of school. I believe that is an important qualification which it would be wrong for me to omit. However, when it came to the point of giving examples of wrongdoing by local authorities and when it came to hard evidence being put forward of something that needed to be corrected, nearly everything that was said was about schools.

Yet when one looks at the complaints about the clause—and not just those from this side of the House—I would say that 75 per cent. of them relate not to how the clause affects school children but to how it affects adults. I suggest that a great deal of the concern was about the knock-on effect of the clause on the other services of local authorities—on the libraries, on the arts, on counselling services and on attempts to overcome discrimination against homosexuals; services which were not particularly attacked by noble Lords who were in favour of the clause.

Under those circumstances, although I still have grave doubts about what is left in the clause if my noble friend's amendment is accepted, I would urge my noble friends to support the amendment. I suggest that it is a damage limitation exercise. I do not suggest that it deals with all of the problems but I suggest that what results from this is very much better than what is available at the moment.

The Minister said a moment ago that something must be done. Here I depart from my undertaking, for which I apologise, although I do not think it is unhelpful. When he said that something must be done what he meant on this occasion was that something must be done about the wording of the clause, and not that something Must be done about the problem which gives rise to the original drafting of the clause. He is right. The wording "intentionally promote homosexuality" has, under intensive scrutiny from your Lordships, proved to be far too wide and far too vague. One major benefit of the amendment is that it takes that out and leaves a specific and reasonably well defined attempt to counter an evil which can be identified and which is of proper concern to your Lordships. Under those circumstances, I hope that my noble friend will pursue this amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he permit me to ask a question? Does he agree that heterosexism awareness courses or anti heterosexism training are a good use of ratepayers' money?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, as the noble Baroness is a supporter of the clause I ask her whether she thinks that they can be defined as promoting homosexuality. It has never been suggested that they are covered by the clause.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, it seeks to suggest that one lifestyle is desirable over another. Anti heterosexism is certainly promoting lesbian or gay existences.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I think it would be improper for me to pursue this but I do not think that any of the phrases which the noble Baroness uses can be found in the clause.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, the House will not wish for another speech from me. After that long address from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, I thought that I would be allowed to run for another quarter of an hour. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has done a wonderful job for the Government in this House in recent months and I hope that he will go on to greatness and one day become the Leader here. Tonight I hope that he will blot out his speech as an unhappy memory. It was no good at all. I wish to press the amendment.

10.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 72) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 48; Not-Contents, 90.

Airedale, L. Longford, E.
Barnett, L. McIntosh of Haringey. L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. McNair, L.
Blease, L. Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Nicol, B.
Carter, L. Ogmore, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Parry, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Peston, L.
Darcy (de Knayth). B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
David, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Rea, L.
Ennals, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Ewart-Biggs. B. [Teller.] Russell of Liverpool, L.
Falkland, V. Seear, B.
Foot, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Gifford, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Tordoff, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Underhill, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Jeger, B. Willis, L.
Jenkins of Putney. L. [Teller.] Winchilsea and Nottingham,
Kilbracken, L. E.
Kilmarnock, L. Winstanley, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Arran, E. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Buckmaster, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Butterworth, L.
Beloff, L. Caithness, E.
Belstead, L. Caldecote, V.
Blatch, B. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Borthwick, L. Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Goold, L.
Carnock, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Colvillc of Culross, V. Greenway, L.
Craigmyle, L. Halsbury, E.
Crathorne, L. Hanson, L.
Croft, L. Harvington, L.
Davidson. V. [Teller.] Havers, L.
Denham. L. [Teller.] Hesketh, L.
Dormer, L. Hives, L.
Dundee, E. Home of the Hirsel, L.
Eden of Winton, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Joseph, L.
Ely, Bp. Kimball, L.
Faithfull, B. Lindsey and Abingdon. E.
Ferrers, E. Long, V.
Fitt, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Fortescuc, E. Lyell, L.
Gisborough, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Glenarlhur, L. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Margadale, L. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Marley, L. Sandford, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Shrewsbury, E.
Mersey, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Milverton, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Strange, B.
Monson, L. Swinfen, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Swinton, E.
Morris, L. Teviot, L.
Mountgarret, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Moyne, L. Trefgarne, L.
Munster, E. Ullswater, V.
Nelson, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Oxfuird, V. Wolfson, L.
Pym, L. Wynford, L.
Rodney, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.10 p.m.

[Amendment No. 73 not moved.]

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, if Amendment No. 74 is agreed to, I cannot call 'Amendments Nos. 75 to 88.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 28, leave out lines 29 to 37 and insert—

  1. ("(a) permit the teaching or use in any maintained school of any material which commends sexual activity between persons of the same sex:
  2. (b) permit the publication of any material for such use.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not propose to keep your Lordships here a moment longer than I need to. I shall not say anything about paragraph (a)—the first limb of the amendment—because I feel that enough has already been said by those with much abler, subtler and more sophisticated minds than mine, notably the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton. I agree with what they said. However, since we began to debate this clause, which must have been debated more than most clauses in most Bills, we have been saying that certain terms in it are vague and too generalised. They are namely the words "promote" and "homosexuality" and the expression "pretended family relationships". Yet, although we have been saying this since we began the debate, nobody has yet really attempted to suggest anything else. This is what the amendment attempts to do. The word "promote" in my view is vague because, just to bring it down to brass tacks, one of the meanings given in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary for example, is "to put forth into notice or publish". There is no harm done there. It may be that a local authority, in offering services or in offering counselling to homosexuals, might be putting it forth into notice or publishing it. But it is not promoting it in the bad sense, in the sense of encouraging it or suggesting that it is a good idea.

The word "homosexuality" is a vague abstraction. This has been said a number of times, but here again nobody has suggested an alternative. Is the fact of two men living together or two women living together an example of homosexuality? Some people would say so. Is a creation by a male artist which obviously shows admiration for the male anatomy an example of homosexuality? Nobody could say that Shakespeare's sonnets were a very interesting example of homosexuality. Your Lordships all know that the earlier and finest ones were written to a young man. Are they entirely platonic? Noble Lords will find it very interesting, when they have a spare moment, to study Sonnet No. XX in detail. In it the poet said that the loved one should have been a girl but at the last minute nature made an addition which changed that, prevented this young man from being his loved one and reserved him for the ladies. Does that show that Shakespeare was passing through a homosexual phase or not? It is completely in the air. We know in fact that the Bard was only too heterosexual for most of his life. But, as I say, that is an example of the vagueness of the expression. "Pretended family relationship" is better left out entirely, and that is what this amendment does.

We are dealing with a subject in which there are deep divides. Very roughly I would say that we divide ourselves into three groups. There are those who believe that any form of homosexuality is wicked and unnatural. I would say that perhaps they are a minority. There are those who think that it is a regrettable deviation from normality and a thing towards which they must show tolerance. They appreciate that homosexuals have much to offer but, as I say, they regard it as a regrettable deviation from normality. They, I would say, are the majority. And finally there are those who regard it as nothing more than a genetic variant, comparable almost to being left-handed, which is totally acceptable.

It is this group which is really causing the trouble. They have some influence in a small minority of local authorities and those authorities have considered it part of their duty to offer assistance to people who are suffering—I am using the wrong word—to people, I should say, who have this predilection by offering them counselling and facilities and protecting them from discrimination and harassment. Such activities on the part of local authorities are easily misinterpreted. I am not exactly defending those local authorities, but one must appreciate how easily the protection of what might be or what has been a disadvantaged minority could be interpreted as promoting its interests.

In these circumstances, when so much vagueness hangs around these expressions, I think it is better to do without the whole of the first part of this clause and to concentrate on protecting school children from what we might call inappropriate reading matter.

I might say in passing that very little proof has been produced as yet that any of this has actually happened in schools. A certain amount of it has been discussed, debated and proposed by certain authorities but there is very little evidence that anything we have spoken about has actually taken place in the classroom.

Let us protect children and let us allow adults to make up their own minds and to use their votes to dispense with councillors who, they think, are pursuing policies that they disapprove of or disagree with. That is a process, I might say in passing, which would be much easier if we had proportional representation. Let us not commit adult human beings to a written law which in its vagueness may do more to spread confusion, fear and prejudice than it will ever do to uphold public morality. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I should not have thought that even a Liberal Peer would find it possible to introduce the doctrine of proportional representation into a debate dealing with the problems of homosexuality.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I am sorry. I am not giving way for the moment. Will the noble Baroness resume her seat?

Noble Lords


Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I shall give way, but not in the middle of a sentence. I therefore continue to say that I suppose that it may be, although it is not obvious to me, that there is some connection between the two doctrines. I now give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, the noble Lord has made it plain, as we have always known, that he enjoys a jibe at proportional representation and does not understand its significance.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I did not hear most of what the noble Baroness said. As it apparently was not intended as a compliment, I shall not worry myself too much about it. I suggest to your Lordships that the amendment is basically a waste of time. By proposing to delete lines 29 to 37, it virtually removes the clause.

Your Lordships spent a great deal of time at Committee stage discussing whether or not the clause should stand part. We had one major wrecking amendment and one debate on clause stand part. Your Lordships decided on both occasions by substantial majorities that the clause should remain. It therefore seems a pity, if I can put it that way, that on Report the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, should produce an amendment which virtually involves the elimination of the clause and the substitution in part of some other phraseology which he appears to prefer.

The other great weakness of the amendment is that it appears to limit the prohibition of the promotion of homosexuality to schools. It has been pointed out again and again in the course of our earlier debates today that there are equally dangerous situations outside schools. I think that one noble Lord referred earlier to discos. There is also the promotion of a number of gay and lesbian clubs by local authorities. Those are aimed basically at young people. It is self-delusion to believe that if we confine the protection given to young people to schools, we shall protect them from those who seek to corrupt them in those other ways. I shall of course give way to the noble Lord, although I was about to conclude.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I simply wanted to learn whether or not the noble Lord was willing to recognise the rather important distinction between activities in schools and in discos. School children are obliged to go to school. Therefore, they might be thought to be the victims, if you like, or the unwilling recipients of any propoganda. Discos are entirely voluntary. No one can force anyone—least of all me—to go to a disco.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. Many of us are thankful that there is no compulsion to go to discos. I accept at once that there is a distinction. I do not know whether the noble Lord is arguing that it is wrong to corrupt children in schools and that it is all right to corrupt them in discos. I do not know if that is his argument. But the fact remains—I shall give way to the noble Lord.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am of course not arguing that it is all right to corrupt children at a disco. I am saying that there are many voluntary activities which take place all over the country which are designed for adults and there are many at which most of us would not wish to he present. It is not possible for a local authority to corrupt someone who goes to a disco unless it can force that person to go to that disco or any other comparable activity.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I do not agree. If a local authority promotes homosexual ideas at public expense, with attractive trimmings and music that a great many people like, then, whether or not the noble Lord is right in calling that "compelling" such persons to listen to such things, I do not know. But I do not think that even the noble Lord can deny that that is promotion of homosexual ideas and that if you promote homosexuality by attracting people to a function, that is just as much promoting it as if you promoted it by compelling them to go to school. Therefore, though they are different activities, and properly dealt with by different paragraphs in the original clause, they are both evils which I suggest to your Lordships it should be the purpose of public policy to avoid. While offering what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, believes—I think wrongly—to be some protection in schools, this amendment offers no protection whatever to young people against activities promoted out of school. I hope that, without wasting much time on it, your Lordships will reject this amendment.

Lord Gifford

My Lords, I have a difficulty with the amendment of the noble Lord. We have to recognise that, particularly in view of the vote in the last Division, the House has accepted paragraph (a) of the new clause as a provision that it wants to be included in the Bill. In so far as the amendment deletes the whole of the clause it goes over the same ground which we have already covered and it would perhaps be wrong to press it to a Division.

Given the amendments which the Government are about to promote, I believe that the single outstanding difficulty about this clause, with which we have not really grappled, is the wording of paragraph (b): promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". I rise to speak on this amendment because of all the proposed tinkerings with paragraph (b) which are to follow and which do not really get to the root of the problem as does the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie. In so far as the words in the first three lines of his amendment could be used to replace paragraph (b), they would seem to be far more specific, clear and acceptable. As we shall obviously be returning to this topic, I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to look at alternative wordings on the lines of the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, for paragraph (b) in particular.

No doubt an argument can be raised on a later amendment, but I shall argue that the whole of paragraph (b) is unnecessary because once one has enacted a general clause against the promotion of homosexuality, a particular example of that promotion which is meant to be contained in paragraph (b) is no longer necessary. The fact of the matter is that paragraph (b), which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, is looking at in his new wording, is fraught with terrible difficulties for those who have to teach in schools. Paragraph (b) says that one is not allowed as a teacher to say to a child that a homosexual relationship may be acceptable. That is going much further than the general prohibition on the promotion of homosexuality.

The Guardian of 10th February carried a very eloquent letter by Angela Mason which exactly illustrates the point that I have in mind. She says: I have a 3½-year-old daughter. She lives with myself and the woman with whom I have lived for 15 years. We have a wide circle of friends and relations who totally accept her circumstances.… Soon she will be starting primary school. We are aware that as she grows older she will have to deal with anti-homosexual prejudice. We had hoped that if such prejudice is expressed by her peers at school her teachers would be in a position to challenge it and perhaps even to create an atmosphere of greater tolerance and understanding within the school. The effect of Clause 28 will be to make it unlawful for the teachers to offer any support to children in my daughter's situation, i.e. to stop bullying. It will be a licence for bigots to torment a child because her parents are 'queer'. I believe my child has as much right as any other to have her home and family respected and not to be tormented or harassed because of her family circumstances. I hope that in coming to their decisions on the proposed legislation the members of both Houses of Parliament will actually think about what is actually going to become of children such as mine (and there are many of them) and what kind of bigoted and vengeful world they are creating for her to live in". The concern expressed in that letter is well founded. Where the child of a homosexual relationship was being bullied at school, any teacher who was trying to introduce tolerance, to help the child and to give it support, would be in terrible difficulty. Once the teacher sought to say. "Don't worry. Your parents' relationship is one of many kinds of relationships in the world. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just different from other poeple's and you should not be bullied because of it", then that teacher would be raising in the classroom the, acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". Unless the local authority upon, let us say, a complaint received by another parent—and one knows how such complaints can be made and can be distorted—takes some kind of action against that teacher for raising the question of the acceptability of those parents' relationship, the authority will be in danger of being said to promote the teaching of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.

I raise the matter at this stage because I hope the noble Earl can tell us that he is prepared to have some further thoughts. I do not think that we can accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie. However, the words on the lines of those it embodies as a substitute for paragraph (b) would go a long way towards allaying people's fears that this very wide paragraph, with its extremely generalised phrasing, will cause the kind of difficulties I have described.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, there is an inherent defect in this clause which renders it quite unacceptable. The local authority cannot "permit" the teaching, or "permit" the publication, because, since the Education (No. 2) Act 1986–1 think it is Section 18–it has no control. All the local authority can do is to promote, which, according to the Oxford Dictionary definition, means active support or encouragement. Promote is totally apt; permit is impermissible.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has just said, I feel that it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak now to the amendment standing my name, and the name of the noble Lord, Lord Rea—Amendment No. 76. That amendment omits all words after "intentionally promote homosexuality". As my noble friend said, what follows after those words are nothing more than examples of promoting homosexuality, which would already be prohibited by the words that I would leave in. Under my amendment the clause would simply state that, A local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality". All the other matters that are provided under either (a) or (b) are merely examples of promoting homosexuality—two words that I do not like, but we are stuck with them. It is clear that publishing material intended to promote homosexuality is promoting homosexuality, as is, promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship —whatever that means.

I like the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie. However, if that is not acceptable I see no reason for going into all the detail that is in the Bill at present. If my amendment were accepted it would mean the deletion of eight or 10 lines of the Bill without weakening it in any way.

Lord McNair

My Lords, perhaps it would be better if we returned to Amendment No. 74. Otherwise we shall get into a terrible confusion.

I should like to follow the very eloquent plea from the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, to the noble Earl, to think again. From all our discussions in Committee and tonight it is perfectly clear that this word "promote" will never be acceptable to majority opinion. I say that fully recognising that the noble Lord. Lord Campbell of Alloway, who may have discovered it in the first place, is not going to agree with me.

I spent quite a long time trying to define the word "promote" in order to produce an amendment in the form of a definition. I started in an obvious way, by consulting Roget's Thesaurus. If one looks up the word "promote" in the index of Roget's Thesaurus, one finds it refers to no fewer than seven different sections, and there are very few other words having so many references.

Incidentally, upon reading through all seven, one finds that they are not very helpful so far as concerns this Bill, because I do not really think that "promote" is the word for which your Lordships are looking. We hit upon the words "commend" and "advocate", which the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has also mentioned this evening. But we did not get them by looking up "promote" in Roget's Thesaurus.

There is something semantically very wrong with the phrase in question and I hope that the noble Earl will listen to the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, before Third Reading and do something about it. Meanwhile, naturally I support the amendment that bears my name, and everything that my noble friend said

Lord Monson

My Lords, I understand everything which the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie, is aiming for with this amendment and I have a certain sympathy with it. I certainly agree with his criticism of the words "pretended family relationship". But I wonder whether the noble Lord has his wording quite right.

It is perfectly true that one can use material that commends sexual activity of one sort or another, but can one really teach such material? I think not. One can teach children, one can teach history, and one can even teach the Bible. But I do not think one can teach The Milkman's on his Way. Even if it were not for that grammatical fault, the amendment would leave the door open to teaching that makes no use of material, such as off-the-cuff praise of homosexual behaviour. For that reason alone I do not think the amendment will do. I much prefer that in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, I assure the House that I shall he very brief. One point that I was unable to raise at the Committee stage ought to be made, and it should run through our thinking in considering all these amendments. I hope that I may have some support from the spiritual Benches in this. In considering homosexuality in all its forms and in its various manifestations, one must realise that, basically, it undermines family life.

The Minister made that point briefly, but as far as I know—and I have listened carefully to all the speeches made—it has not been emphasised. That concept is endorsed by three organisations whom I am happy to support. One is the National Family Campaign, one is the Conservative Family Campaign, and the other is the Care Campaign. All of them, having considered this matter with the utmost sincerity and in great detail, support the original amendment. I submit to your Lordships that all the other amendments tending in any way at all to undermine the influence of the family should be resisted.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, before the Minister replies, I want to echo the comments of the noble Viscount. There are some of us—call it prejudice if you like—who feel serious disquiet at the description of two females in a sexual relationship bringing up a small child. Clearly there is considerable support required for that child in the circumstances in which it finds itself and there are particular difficulties for the teacher in handling that situation. I should be seriously concerned if it were being advocated that such was any kind of a normal relationship and a desirable family relationship.

I believe that underlying much of our discussion is a strong conviction that the future of our society depends upon the relationship between man and woman and the product of man and woman—the child. I feel particularly strongly about that matter.

I also believe that we must all exercise Christian tolerance about anything which deviates from what one would call a "normal family relationship". For that reason I believe that we are skirting around that in which we believe. We can talk about the precise meaning of the word "promote" but I suspect that that is not the real issue between those who wish to support the amendment and those who wish to stick by the intentions of the main clause.

I believe that the amendment leaves out the most fertile ground for activities of this kind—that is the age group from 16 years onwards who attend youth clubs and discos. There has been a great deal of scoffing about activities in discos but the most impressionable age is from the beginning of puberty until about 25 years, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. I believe that we must do everything that we can to protect young people during that time, when they have a great deal of battling through that stage of their lives. We should encourage them to follow a lifestyle which is for the health and future of our society. There is no future for society in women with women and men with men. I am saying quite clearly that I do not believe that such a lifestyle should be advocated, promoted or condoned. In the light of the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, I shall settle for the word "promote". I do not think that we should be in the business of furthering and encouraging particularly as regards young children in school and those up to the age of 25.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I agree entirely with what has been said by my noble friend Lady Blatch. Although a great deal has been spoken on this subject, I should like to say a little more. It is a subject of great delicacy and anything I say will be like an Aberdeen Angus in a glass factory. However, I shall try to tread gently.

When there is a question of protecting the innocent, which this is, one has a plain duty to speak out. A baby comes into this world fresh, warm and safe from the loving confines of its mother's womb. For the first months of its life it is wrapped close and tight in swaddling bands of physical protection from the world. For the first years of their life children also need the close confines of the moral protection of right and wrong. Later, when they become teenagers and their bodies grow and develop, they question everything that they have been taught. Sometimes they have homosexual tendencies because that is part of growing up. Freud believed—and here I misquote W. S. Gilbert—that: Every little boy or gal Born into this world today Is either a heterosexual Or a homosexual gay". That I do not believe but I should like to concur with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, on the misuse of the splendid word "gay". Some of my best friends are homosexuals but all my best friends are jolly and gay. Although human beings have different quantities of male and female hormones, I do not share Freud's belief that sexuality is fixed at birth. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that circumstances and teaching have much to do with it.

I speak for parents everywhere. We want our children to have the best possible chance of happiness in this world. We want them to have the least possible chance of catching the dreaded disease AIDS and so dying prematurely. We hope that they will have children so that we can see our children's children and love them too. A human being is a gift of God created by the love of a father and a mother of a different sex. The basic principle is the family, on which all life and civilisation depend. We owe it to our forebears, to ourselves, to our children and to God, who created us, to keep it so.

10.45 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there are two quick answers to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, as to why I cannot accept the amendment. First, we have just voted on the previous amendment, which confined the ambit of the clause to schools, and is very similar to what the noble Lord wants. Secondly, the amendment uses the word "permit" which, as my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway said, is totally wrong, as I explained in Committee, because of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. The permitting of teaching is a matter for the local authorities, while teaching is with the headmaster, the governors and the parents of the school.

The point that concerns the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, is the term "promoting homosexuality". That is another difficulty. A number of amendments are trying to get at that. Therefore, while dealing with Amendment No. 74, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 75, 78 and 81 as they are all linked on the common theme. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, mentioned Amendment No. 76. I do not know whether he wants me to deal with that in detail now. It is a separate point.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, later.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall leave out that part.

The scope of what I shall say concerns whether the phrase "promoting homosexuality" is a sensible choice in its own right. To do so I must go back to the mischief with which we are all trying to deal. The local authorities concerned are, in the Government's opinion, trying to carry out some social engineering. In so doing, they are not doing anything so simple as encouraging people to undertake homosexual acts. Nor are they simply encouraging people to form homosexual relationships. That may be an outcome of what the local authorities concerned are doing, but it is not what the local authorities do.

What they arc doing is something rather more subtle. What we are seeing in some places is an attempt to sell homosexuality, to ensure that people see it in a favourable light. For this purpose we see all the techniques of modern public relations deployed—entertainments, exhibitions, campaigns, posters. Every local authority service that can possibly be used in some way to put over the message is twisted to serve the same purpose. We see gay library collections, gay consciousness courses for local authority officers and homosexual material produced for children's playgroups. We have homosexual and lesbian units which comment on every report that is going to the council. Everything then is done to glamourise homosexuality, to make all aspects of homosexuality seem attractive.

It is this hard sell of homosexuality that is so worrying. As I said earlier, in many ways it is the more insidious approaches that cause more concern than anything that is done in the classroom. They allow young people uncertain of their sexual orientation to be brought into contact with people who have decided on a homosexual orientation for themselves. Such contacts can have great effects on impressionable young people. That is not a proper use of resources collected from the community as a whole through the power of taxation. I therefore argue that the core of the mischief that we are concerned with is something very akin to a public relations campaign in that it has little to do with the proper tasks of a local authority. I therefore think that it is correct to use the vocabulary of the advertising trade to describe it.

In this case, the product is the whole gamut of homosexuality, homosexual acts, homosexual relationships, even the abstract concept. All these are the subject of the promotional campaign which some local authorities are undertaking, and which the Government think they should not.

It is when we look at the matter in this way that we can see why it is that the formulation in the Bill does not give rise to the problems which have concerned so many noble Lords. While a local authority is going about its legitimate business there is no reason for it to be promoting homosexuality. It may well want to take steps to ensure that in providing services it caters for homosexuals as well as for the rest of the community. Provided that those steps are properly judged in relation to that problem and are not a disguised form of promotional campaign of the kind to which I have referred we can see no reason to object to them. Steps to ensure that homosexuals are effectively served by the local authority in the same way that other sections of the community are served are one thing; promotional campaigns are quite another. When an authority sets out to proselytise, to impose its views on homosexuality on the rest of the community, then matters have gone too far. We think that this distinction is well caught by the phrase, the intentional promotion of homosexuality to describe what local authorities are not permitted to do.

On a detailed point, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, in his Amendment No. 81, suggested referring to the acceptability of homosexuality as "the basis of'' a family relationship rather than simply "as" a family relationship. That does not seem to alter the sense of what has been said. It simply adds three words to the paragraph which we believe are unnecessary to its sense. On that basis I cannot support that amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, supported by the noble Lord, Lord McNair, asked whether I would look at an alternative wording for paragraph (b). I believe that the noble Lord is mistaken in his reading of paragaph (h). He suggests that it will prevent a teacher teaching in certain ways. It will not do so. The paragraph is directed solely at the local authorities, not at the teachers. The local authority's only function in this field is now to state its views in a statement under Section 17 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986. As I have explained, the governing body is not bound by that statement. The teacher is answerable to the governing body and not to the local authority.

Lord Gifford

May I intervene on a very important point? If a teacher, whether in the course of a sex education lesson, a literature lesson, or in any other way, is heard to express a view or even discuss the acceptability of homosexuality and there is a complaint by a parent of a pupil who is upset by what that teacher has taught, surely the local authority must pursue or discipline that teacher. If it does not, it will he failing in its duty under the Act. It will be permitting or promoting the activities of that teacher. There is a real problem here because of the wording of paragraph (b). I hope the noble Earl will take that seriously.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, indeed I take the matter seriously. That is why I have taken time to reply specifically to the noble Lord. I come back to what he said. It was, I confess, a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, in Committee that was largely responsible for the Government's amendment which we shall shortly deal with. However, what the teacher does is now the responsibility of the head teacher and the governing body, not the local authority. What we are talking about in the Bill is the attitude of the local authority. I hope that covers the point.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, that I am unable to accept his amendment. I hope I have explained to your Lordships why we believe the wording in the Bill is the right wording.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down perhaps I may point out that he gave his reasons for not wishing to accept my Amendment No. 81 although I have not yet moved that amendment. I cannot refer to my amendment while interrupting the noble Earl but I intend to move it when it is called.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, with the leave of the House, of course I understand that. However, as I said earlier, the difficulty that we are facing on this clause is that so many amendments are inter-related that when I was trying to define the Government's attitude to the words "promoting homosexuality" I had to touch upon the noble Lord's amendment.

Lord Ritchie of Dundee

My Lords, the noble Earl has made the point that no local authority could be taken to task for promoting homosexuality if a teacher made a wrong step or a suggestion in the classroom such as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, referred to because that teacher is not answerable to the local authority. Are we to understand from that that governing bodies and head teachers can promote homosexuality but local authorities may not? Since the teacher is answerable to the head teacher and to the governing body, presumably they could advance such matters but local authorities cannot. It does not make sense to me.

With regard to what the noble Earl said about the promotional campaign of local authorities, I can only revert to what I said originally—that it may well he according to the way one looks at it. On the one hand, a local authority may be trying to achieve equal opportunities which to certain people may appear to be a promotional campaign. There was a period in our last exchanges when I hoped we might be approaching a consensus and I hoped your Lordships might agree that even a slight rewording would clear up many difficulties.

In Committee and now we must have spent a great many hours debating this clause, and it would be nice to feel that something had been achieved. I would regard a more precise wording as a very satisfactory achievement. Unfortunately, that moment seems to have passed, and in those circumstances I am hound to withdraw the amendment. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government may think again and alter one word or words which may make a difference.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 75

Page 28, line 29, leave out ("homosexuality") and insert ("homosexual behaviour or activity").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this amendment, and I shall speak also to Amendments No. 78 and 80. I am much obliged to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, because he has—whether he knows it or not—answered the question which I asked in my opening speech, which was why a clause that was considered to be both unnecessary and inappropriate is now considered to be necessary and appropriate. I believe that the list of matters he read out about the promotion of homosexuality amounting to the hard sell of it, so to speak, may be the answer which he now gives to the House and which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, were unable to give.

My own problem is not with the word "promote" but with the word "homosexuality". A11 I have asked in the past and wish to ask again is: has the word "promote" ever been used before in a statute without a concrete object? I am perfectly happy with the use of it in Clause 27 and in the Education Reform Bill. I am not happy with its use here in conjunction with the word "homosexuality". In the Oxford Dictionaryhomosexuality is given as the quality of being homosexual. Can one promote a quality or its homosexual character? I do not think one can do that or promote homosexual nature. Instead of homosexuality, I propose two concrete things that can be promoted—homosexual behaviour or activity.

I have asked two questions. The first is why an abstract word is used when a concrete word will do. Secondly, has the word "promote" ever been used in a statute before with an abstract concept as its object. I beg to move.

11 p.m.

Lord Shaughnessy

My Lords, it is quite obvious that the noble Earl is agonising over some of the semantical problems in this clause. We started out originally with, if I recall correctly, "the promotion of homosexuality". That was amended by a government amendment to "intentionally promote". In Amendment No. 77 it is to be amended again at the behest of the Government to "intend to promote". This indicates to me that there is a certain difficulty and second thoughts on the part of the Government about the actual application of the words "promote" or "promotion".

I should like to support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Henderson because I think that the words "promote" or "promotion" and "homosexuality" have an effect upon each other being somewhat semantical. However, if one defines more narrowly, as the noble Lord suggests, homosexual behaviour or activity, instead of using the rather loose word "homosexuality", which may be taken in a very wide context, as we have been discussing at great length in the arts and in the whole education field, the problem of whether one uses in this clause "intentionally promote" or, as proposed by the noble Earl, "intend to promote" is solved at least to a large extent. Therefore I think that the amendment of my noble friend Lord Henderson is very well taken.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, it seems to me that as usual the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, is absolutely and completely right and what he is saying cannot be disputed. The word "homosexuality" is described as an abstract concept, quality or state, or the condition of being homosexual. That is not something it is possible to promote; nor can it imaginably be a relationship. Homosexuality cannot be a relationship. That is the reason for my Amendment No. 81 in which I talk of homosexuality being the basis of a relationship. But a relationship it cannot be. Therefore I strongly support the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches in all of these amendments.

Lord Monson

My Lords, until just over 48 hours ago I thought that this amendment had everything to commend it. After all, it seemed a reasonable assumption that one could undoubtedly promote bisexuality—in other words, encourage people to "try it out" with those of the same sex so as to discover whether it was slightly more pleasurable or amusing than heterosexuality. But one could not promote pure homosexuality, if I may coin a phrase, which is something one is either born with or acquires at a very early age.

However, only two days ago the Sunday Telegraph published an extended interview with a very well known English author whose amusing novels many of your Lordships will have undoubtedly read. They are generally set in an imaginary Oxbridge college with frequent excursions to Greek islands where the pagan gods still hold sway. When asked by the Sunday Telegraph interviewer whether he had enjoyed his school days at Charterhouse the author replied: There were sports which I enjoyed; there was intrigue for power which I enjoyed; there was homosexuality which I enjoyed". Mr. Raven, for it was he, did not mean by "homosexuality" some abstract, philosophical concept; nor did he mean some spiritual relationship of a totally celibate nature. What he meant by that word in that context was a homosexual relationship leading to physical homosexual activity. If such a master of the English language treats homosexuality an synonymous with homosexual activity and behaviour, one can only assume that many other people must do likewise. That being the case, my rather reluctant conclusion is that the word "homosexuality" ought to stand.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I shall support the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, in about ten words. We do not legislate against abstract criminality; we legislate against criminal behaviour.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am not sure that I can add much to what I previously said about these amendments when I spoke to the previous amendment. I endeavoured to explain that we are concerned about all aspects of homosexuality and not just homosexual acts. We wish to cover the sum of homosexuality—homosexual relationships and sexual orientation; in short, every aspect of the way homosexuality manifests itself. That is what the local authorities to which we take exception are trying to promote. Therefore, we believe that the wording in the Bill is appropriate.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, that the Government are not having second thoughts about the words "promoting homosexuality". If he waits until I move my amendments, he will see that we have confirmed what I said in Committee we were trying to do, which is to make it the intention of the local authority. The whole point in the Government's amendment of changing the wording is to ensure, as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said in Committee, that where there is an ambiguity, there is no ambiguity, and that the clause focuses solely on the intentions of the local authority.

The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, is right to say that homosexual activity and homosexual behaviour are important. However, I believe that that misses out a vital ingredient: that local authorities are promoting—in some stages, as I said—the abstract concept which the noble Lord's amendment would not catch. It would expose children and young people at a vulnerable age to the powers of persuasion, using ratepayers' and taxpayers' money, and I think that the House would live to regret that if we were to accept the noble Lord's amendments.

Lord Shaughnessy

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him a question about the remarks he made about my intervention? I hope that I did not imply that the Government had any intention of promoting ambiguity. I suggested that the ambiguity of the subsection would be removed, or at least modified, by changing the abstract word "homosexuality" to the words proposed by my noble friend Lord Henderson of Brompton.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I think I can add very little, except to say that the two aspects which the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, wishes to put into the Bill limit the ambit of the clause and will not catch a very great deal of the activity that the local authorities are promoting at the moment.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, would the Minister care to answer my other question which I specifically put to him? It was whether the word "promote" had been used in a statute or legislation in conjunction with an abstract concept.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sorry that I did not reply to the noble Lord on that point. Perhaps I may look into the matter and check before I give him a definite answer on it.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, it was a question which I raised in Committee so I had hoped that the noble Earl would have had an answer by the Report stage. I am very grateful to him, however, for giving me the opportunity of receiving a letter or some kind of communication from him in due course.

I am glad to have aired this subject. I think we know a great deal more about the Government's intentions as a result of having put down these amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Rea moved Amendment No. 76:

Page 28, line 29, leave out from ("homosexuality") to end of line 37.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have added my name to the amendment put down by my noble friend Lord Kilbracken because it gives us another opportunity to look at that odd phrase "pretended family relationship". I think that this wording has been questioned on both sides of the House and at the Committee stage the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, referred to it as an "invidious" phrase. I thought that the noble Earl on the Front Bench said he would do something about it, but perhaps I was wrong.

I personally find this phrase particularly offensive, for rather the same reasons as the lady who wrote that very eloquent letter which my noble friend Lord Gifford has just read out. I say this because from the age of seven, after my parents separated, I was brought up by two women, one of them my mother, in an actual family relationship. There was no pretence there. Quite frankly, I cannot see why this should be considered in any way objectionable. It was a good family, and I maintain that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a homosexual couple bringing up a child. I consider that I had as rich and as happy a childhood as most children who are reared by heterosexual couples, and far better than many I see in my daily practice as a doctor. I do not think any of the defects in my character, of which I have an average number, have arisen from my being brought up by two women. My sexual orientation is, I am told, also pretty average and so is that of my children.

Let us look at what has now become a rather famous book, Jenny lives with Eric and Martin. It has been mentioned several times already at the Committee stage of this Bill. Apart from being a monumentally boring little book, it is now enjoying considerable and probably undeserved fame. However, it was not produced to promote homosexuality, either intentionally or otherwise, but, I submit, to protect those children who were being brought up by single sex couples, whether male or female—and most schools contain a few of these, sometimes quite a few—to protect them from the intolerance of their schoolfellows. Many of those, I am afraid, are brought up to believe that homosexuals are perverts or have AIDS and are generally an unacceptable and inferior branch of the human race.

Hence, I am sorry to say—and here I borrow a phrase from my noble friend Lord Longford—gay-bashing expeditions by some of the less pleasant youth in our schools are now becoming more common. This is not mere conjecture on my part. I have evidence of it. Only the other day, a teacher came in to see us, badly beaten up because he had been suspected of being gay. He was a male dance teacher in a local secondary school and he had been beaten up by the children in the school. It so happened that he was not gay, but they thought he was.

This book which I have mentioned was intended to rebut this misinformation that gays are despicable. It was meant to show that a pair of gay men can be as caring, as affectionate and also as humdrum as any orthodox couple. There is a picture of a small girl in the same bed as two men who are presumed gay. Some might find that shocking. I would suggest that the small girl was actually a lot safer in a bed with two gay men than some small girls are in the same bed with their own heterosexual father. The paediatricians of Cleveland may have been a bit trigger happy in diagnosing childhood sexual abuse. But there is now no doubt that it is far more common than has been publicly admitted. In the great majority of cases the guilty parent is living in a heterosexual relationship.

As has been said by other noble Lords, a sizeable minority of human beings—it is often estimated at 10 per cent.—by some jinx of crossed wires or programming, prefer to live in the intimate company of their own sex. And nothing that we pass in this clause will change that. People living in these relationships often wish that they did not feel more comfortable that way. It would be far easier for them to conform, and some deny their homosexual tendencies and live unhappily in heterosexual marriages which produce children.

When those marriages break down, it is sometimes the case that the homosexually inclined partner is the more stable of the pair and takes on the care of the children. Are these good citizens who are making a good home for their children to be denied the chance to have a loving adult relationship while rearing their children even when the heterosexual parent may be unstable, an alcoholic or a drug user as I have known is the case from my own personal experience as a doctor? Surely, the need now is for greater tolerance of the homosexually-inclined minority in our midst and not for the increased intolerance which is already growing, I am afraid, and which this and all the other subsections of this clause will only encourage.

I wonder whether it will be at all possible for the noble Earl to think again on "pretended family relationship". I do not believe that many in this House or even the majority who voted in favour of the clause as a whole are entirely happy about it.

11.15 p.m.

Lord Moyne

My Lords, may I suggest that the noble Lord who has just spoken, while rambling over many curious and peculiar arrangements which I did not understand, nonetheless was at times confusing friendship with homosexuality?

Lord Rea

My Lords, as the noble Lord actually asks me to reveal an extremely personal part of my life, I can say that the noble Lord is completely wrong. Also, it is possible for couples whether heterosexual or homosexual to be extremely discreet about their sexual relationships. How many noble Lords here have actually seen their parents indulging in a sexual act or knew even until they were perhaps adolescent what they did in bed together?

Lord Gifford

My Lords, the remarkable speech of my noble friend Lord Rea and the candour with which he has spoken should, I would have thought, commend itself to the whole House. What he has done by the graphic illustration of his own family is to illustrate what an insult the present wording of this clause is to so many people who are exercising their right to have a private life which, as I said in Committee, is enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That is the right to have a particular form of private life. I return fortified by what my noble friend has said to the question that I was posing a while ago to the noble Earl. I was very interested in his statement that subparagraph (b) of the new subsection is not intended to affect the way in which teachers approach the difficult issues which they may have to encounter when discussion of gay and lesbian relationships arises in the classroom. I have looked up the Education Act to verify for myself that he is right.

If the clause is not meant to affect the behaviour of teachers in the classroom, one wonders what subparagraph (b) is intended to do, with its curious and, as I have submitted, offensive and insulting wording. If it is only designed to stop the activities of local authorities, in so far as they have a possible responsibility, from, for instance, putting into school libraries materials which the noble Earl believes to be offensive, then there is no need for it because the local authority will be caught by subparagraph (a). Subparagraph (a) is quite wide enough to cover all the possible actions which I can think of that might be envisaged in terms of subparagraph (b).

Having been reassured to some extent that subparagraph (b) is not intended to bring under the microscope of disciplinary proceedings the decision of a teacher to say that homosexual relationships may be acceptable, then that calls into question the purpose of subparagraph (b). Since it retains the very difficult and very offensive words, it is much better that we should delete it altogether.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I rise briefly to associate myself with all my heart as well as my mind with the moving words of my noble friend Lord Rea. I think that if we were to suffer the misfortune of going back to some of the moralising and lay preaching which we heard earlier on this evening, the House would be doing itself a disservice.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I wholeheartedly support the amendment. As I said when speaking to Amendment No. 72, surely it is much better to encourage or, at any rate, to tolerate stable homosexual relationships than it is to encourage or tolerate promiscuous homosexual relationships, which can do so much harm if indulged in to excess, even leaving aside the question of AIDS and venereal disease. Yet subparagraph (b), as it stands, takes a diametrically opposed view. I cannot understand that. I hope that the noble Lord will press his amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, has made some persuasive arguments for deleting all the specific references in new subsection 2A(1), and for retaining only the simple prohibition that: A local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality". The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, was quite correct to say, in connection with an earlier amendment, as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, has just said, that the specific references to publishing material, to promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship and the giving of financial or other assistance to others with the intention of promoting homosexuality, would all be encompassed by the single phrase "intentionally promoting homosexuality".

There is therefore clearly a case for limiting the prohibition to that single phrase, Indeed, as I shall explain in due course when speaking to the amendments which are down in my name, the Government accept the case for deleting the reference in subparagraph 2A(1) (c) to the giving of financial or other assistance. We have come to the view that retention of that paragraph might cast doubt on whether it is the intention of the authority or the intention of the person receiving assistance that is at stake; and that, even if redrafted to clarify the point, a specific subsection would add nothing in practice to the overall ban on intentionally promoting homosexuality. It does not matter whether that promotion is direct or indirect, by the local authority or by a third party with assistance from the authority. If the intention is to promote homosexuality, it will be prohibited.

It is a sound legislative rule not to use six words where one will do. The Government do not, however, consider that that approach should lead us to delete the references in the latter part of subparagraph 2A(1)(a) and subparagraph (b) to publishing material and to promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. Perhaps I may explain the Government's view. We believe very strongly that it is necessary to encompass in Clause 28 all the possible ways in which a local authority might promote homosexuality. That is why we have supported the sponsors of this clause in their proposal for a widely based prohibition, encompassing all forms of promotion and all aspects of homosexuality.

There is however no doubt that there are two particular aspects of a local authority's powers which, if used for promoting homosexuality, would give rise to particular concern. Those are its powers to issue publicity and, for a local education authority, the influence it has on teaching sex education in schools. It is on these two particular powers that the references to specific aspects of promoting homosexuality concentrate.

The first specific aspect is publicity. We have touched in our debates on Clause 27 on the potential, in terms of influencing public attitudes and opinion, of local authority publicity. Publicity at public expense is, because of this potential to colour people's views, always a highly sensitive matter. By its nature publicity can be instrusive and if it touches on controversial subjects it can cause public concern and resentment. For all those reasons, publicity whose purpose is to promote homosexuality gives rise to particular concern and in the Government's view deserves special mention.

It seems to us unarguable that many of the activities by local authorities to promote homosexuality would have but limited impact without accompanying publicity. For example, the views and policies of the GLC on positive images of homosexuals and homosexuality were given wide public circulation in a glossy pamphlet, Changing the World— A London Charter JOr Gay and Lesbian Rights. This public statement of policy has been adopted by a number of London boroughs. The policies it promotes underlie many of the activities by local authorities which have given rise to public concern.

Similarly, activities aimed at young people such as the "Lesbian Strength and Gay Pride Week" to which I referred earlier can themselves be promoted and thus attract susceptible participants through carefully targeted publicity material.

The sponsors of the clause considered that it was necessary to highlight publicity as a particular means of promoting homosexuality. The Government agree that publicity is, in many cases, a fundamental element of the problem that we are seeking to stop. We therefore believe that the reference should remain.

So far as teaching is concerned, we believe that there is a clear case for highlighting, on the face of this legislation, the particular matter which has caused most public concern and engendered parents' resentment. It has been said many times in your Lordships' debates on this issue that the effects of local authority policies on impressionable children are at the root of our concern. The policies of some councils for teaching that homosexuality is the norm and that homosexuality is acceptable as a pretended family relationship are a particularly undesirable development. The sponsors of the clause wished to underline this particular problem by a specific reference to it in the clause. There are many other ways in which a local authority might seek to influence sex education teaching in schools. Books such as "Young Gay and Proud" and "The Milkman's on his Way", which contain explicit references to homosexual acts, and are recommended, notably by the ILEA, as suitable reading for 13- and 16-year-olds respectively, illustrate that very clearly. Nevertheless, the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship is a prospect which causes legitimate concern on the part of parents. We therefore support the inclusion of Section 2A(1)(b) in Clause 28.

I should just say to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, who mentioned the fact that he would look up the Education Act, that teachers and governors of schools are already subject to Section 46 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 which requires that all sex education in schools should have regard to morality and the value of family life. It should be emphasised that all the evidence is of local authorities promoting homosexuality—not schools or school governors. That is why Clause 28 is aimed specifically at local authorities, which is where the mischief lies.

I hope that I have said enough to convince the noble Lord, Lord Rea, of the sound reasons why the Government believe that the clause should be extended to incorporate the two specific points that the sponsors of the original amendment thought were necessary. I believe that they give rise to matters of serious public concern. We should prefer to see those points remaining on the face of the Bill

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I spoke earlier to this amendment and do not intend to repeat the arguments that I put forward then. We shall have an opportunity on later amendments to discuss the phrase that my noble friend Lord Gifford found so objectionable, namely: the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". I prefer to leave that discussion until then.

I find myself completely unconvinced by what the noble Earl has said in speaking against my amendment. If only those words remain, the Bill is every bit as effective. I do not like the wording of the Bill. It simply means that certain ways of promoting homosexuality have been mentioned when many others could similarly have been raised.

Clearly there is no point in dividing the House at this hour of the night. At the same time I do not wish to withdraw the amendment.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)

My Lords, if this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 77 to 88.

On Question, amendment negatived.

11.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 28, line 30, leave out ("intended to promote") and insert ("with the intention of promoting").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 77 and at the same time speak to Amendments Nos. 85 and 87. These government amendments in my name deal with the apparent ambiguity in the existing drafting of Clause 28 referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, at Committee stage. Your Lordships will recall that, although I was clear that it was only the intention of the authority that was relevant to the construing of the clause, I agreed to consider whether it was possible to improve the drafting further and to remove any scope of possible misunderstanding of the kind referred to by the noble Lord.

The government amendments are therefore essentially of a technical nature. To the extent, however, that they improve the drafting, and thus make clear the Government's position, I think that they will also remove some of the concerns about the effects of the clause on the activities of persons in receipt of finance or other assistance from local authorities.

Amendment No. 77 replaces the present reference in the proposed Section 2A(1)(a) to, material intended to promote homosexuality". so that a local authority will be prohibited from publishing material with the intention of promoting homosexuality", With this new formulation, there can be no doubt of the kind raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. It is the intention of the local authority in publishing material, as in all other things, that is crucial to the decision whether it is promoting homosexuality.

Amendment No. 85 is consequential on this change. Its effect is two-fold. It makes an amendment to the proposed Section 2A(1)(b) to delete the reference to the promoting of the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship by the publication of such material or otherwise". With the new formulation of the proposed Section 2A(1)(a) and the replacement of the adjectival phrase "intended to promote" by the adverbial phrase "with the intention of promoting" this reference is now meaningless. Although it would be possible in logic to redraft it, we decided after some consideration that the best way forward was to remove from the proposed new Section 2A(1)(b) all reference to the publication of material.

The second change, consequential upon the revised wording of the proposed new Section 2A(1)(a) is the deletion of paragraph (c). This paragraph prohibits a local authority giving financial or other assistance to any person for either of the purposes referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) above". If paragraph (c) were to remain, questions about intention would again arise. The noble Lord, Lord Gifford, would be able to ask whether the purpose was that of a local authority or of a group receiving assistance. It could be argued that the effect of the reference in the paragraph to "purpose" would be to make relevant the intention of the person to whom assistance was given rather than the authority.

The Government have always made it clear that this was not their view of the clause, nor their purpose in supporting it. Its deletion will make it clear beyond doubt that any remaining allegations about the effect of the clause on the funding of voluntary organisations, art groups, and other bodies by local authorities are without foundation.

On the other hand, I would stress that it does not weaken the impact of the clause on the local authority itself. Whether it sets out to promote homosexuality directly by doing things itself, or whether it sets out to do so indirectly by subsidising others to promote homosexuality, it will still be setting out to promote homosexuality and the clause will therefore intervene to stop it. The amendment makes it even clearer that where a local authority for a proper purpose, within its powers, decides to give assistance to a voluntary group it does not have to conduct an investigation into the motives of that group. It is sufficient that the local authority's own intention is unimpeachable.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, for the point he raised. I hope that the amendments serve to clarify quite a lot of the misunderstanding and that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in particular will be pleased. I have heard that this amendment has settled a lot of doubts. Something that was always our intention is now made absolutely clear. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly support these amendments. They clarify the true and original intendment of the draft as it came from the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. As to Amendment No. 77, the House owes a debt of gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, for having put forward the amendment that served as a vehicle for the expression of fears felt by various sides of the House about the incidence of the clause.

Those fears have been allayed, one would hope, by Amendment No. 77, which shows it is only the intention of the local authority that is relevant. I am grateful that the original intendment has been clarified in that way.

As to Amendment No. 85, it recognises the interaction between the first limb of general application and the second limb, to which reference has already been made. Recognising that interaction, it seeks to excise certain words from the second limb as otiose, the situation being covered by the first limb. That, again, shows the expertise of the parliamentary draftsman as distinct from the efforts of do-it-yourself lawyers. It is drafted in excellent form. I congratulate the Government and hope that both amendments commend themselves to your Lordships.

Lord Gifford

My Lords, I am very happy to appreciate and recognise a concession when I see one, particularly one made so promptly and so fully in response to a suggestion I made. The wording of Amendment No. 77 meets the point I raised in Committee, and meets it beyond any doubt. As a perhaps unexpected bonus, the logic of my thinking has been followed by the noble Earl in paragraph (c), and I thoroughly support the outcome of that, which is Amendment No. 85. I welcome both amendments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I too welcome these amendments and reiterate the gratitude of these Benches and of my noble friend Lord Gifford for the Minister's prompt reaction to the fears earlier expressed. I should not like it to be thought, however, that in supporting these amendments we feel that what is left is satisfactory.

After all, the main points of objection to the clause—the use of the very wide phrase "promote homosexuality", and the use of the words "acceptability" and "pretended family relationship" —are still there. They are still capable of doing very substantial damage and on a false basis.

There is a false presumption behind the whole of this clause that any significant part of local authority activities with regard to homosexuals could possibly be construed in the ways that have been described. A great deal of local authority activity in that respect relates to the avoidance of discrimination against homosexuals, which I hope it is not the intention of the Government to overturn, and counselling those who find themselves perplexed at the prospect of understanding their homosexuality. I understand—I hope correctly— that it is not the intention of the Government to overturn those. All that is left is a small part of local government's activities with regard to homosexuality. And we still have wide, confusing, ambiguous wording which runs the severe risk of threatening the valuable activities of those authorities. However, we must give thanks for what has been achieved.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I do not wish to carp about the wording of paragraph (b). But even taking account of the changes that have been made and the fact that the wording now stops at the word "relationship", it is most confusing. The term "pretended family relationship" is still most unsatisfactory. I do not like the clause. However, if the Minister insists on saying what he intends to say, would he not agree that some such words as, promote the teaching of homosexuality in any maintained school as an acceptable basis for a family relationship leaving out the word "pretended" is much clearer and more acceptable? I do not like what the Government are trying to say, but if they are going to say it, it should be said in a way that is clear and makes sense. I suggest that my wording is better than the term "pretended family relationship".

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful for the welcome that some of your Lordships have been able to give to the Government's amendments. I am sorry that there is still some confusion in the minds of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The Government have listened carefully to all the debates during the Committee stage and to representations made from outside the Chamber. I believe that we now have it right. As regards paragraph (b), mentioned by the noble Baroness, we return to some of the detail which has already been discussed tonight and some of which will continue to be discussed for the rest of the evening. I believe that the clause as now amended is a much better and more well understood piece of legislation.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 78 not moved.]

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 28, line 32, leave out ("acceptability") and insert ("acceptance")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I welcome improvements to the Bill made by the Minister's Amendments Nos. 77 and 85. The Bill refers to a subjective word; namely "acceptability". It is a word which could occupy your Lordships in your judicial capacity for hour after hour. Those were precisely the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, speaking from the Government Front Bench and reported in Hansard at col. 334 on 18th December, 1986. Will the Minister say whether he agrees with his noble friend that the use of the word "acceptability" could occupy your Lordships sitting judicially for hour after hour? If he does, I am sure that he will agree that my more concrete, substituted word is better than the word in the Bill. He might consider taking this matter away and trying to find a word better than either.

Many people are puzzled by the concept of "acceptability". The question, "Acceptable to whom?" is the least of those which are asked, but it comes most readily to mind. With the words of the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, ringing in the Minister's ears, I beg to move.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I should like to support the amendment. I promise not to go on for hour after hour. Surely, the acceptability of homosexuality gives the impression of a subject for a debate on whether homosexuality is acceptable. I do not think that that is the intention. The intention is to prohibit teaching the acceptance of homosexuality.

11.45 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, has proposed a series of amendments. I believe that he spoke also to Amendments Nos. 82 and 83.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords. no.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord has moved Amendment No. 79. I fear that I may have to stray on to the other amendments, as I have done previously.

The amendment to subparagraph 2A(1)(b) concerns the prohibition of local authorities promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. The purpose is to question some of the detailed aspects of the drafting. I am not persuaded that plucking out each element of the paragraph and questioning the inclusion of each word and phrase within it as opposed to some other similar words or phrase is necessarily a productive exercise. Subparagraph 2A(1)(b) is a combination of words devised to encapsulate a particular form of teaching that local authorities should not be promoting in schools. That is why I have to refer also to Amendments Nos. 82 and 83.

In regard to the individual words, each plays a part. Each contributes something to the sense of the whole. It is the phrase in total, not its individual component parts, that conveys the essential message of the paragraph. The noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, suggested that the first word, "acceptability" should be replaced by the word "acceptance". In the Government's view that is not a desirable change. The word "acceptance" imparts a different flavour from the word "acceptability", which affects the nuance of the paragraph as a whole.

It is very largely a matter of nuance. In our view "acceptability" offers a better expression of the concept that a homosexual relationship is in some way to be welcomed. The word "acceptance" does not seem to have the element of subjectivity which is at the root of the mischief that the paragraph seeks to describe. Teaching acceptance of a situation which exists and which one should tolerate is a very different matter from teaching that the same situation is the norm or that it is something to be favoured or emulated.

This nuance is repeated throughout the paragraph. There is no attempt to deny that there exist relationships which have all the appearance of a normal family relationship but where two adults are of the same sex. The purpose of the phrase, teaching … the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship", is to indicate that the local authorities should not be using their powers under Section 17 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to encourage the teaching that relationships between two people of the same sex can and should play the same role in society as the traditional family.

In our view the term "pretended family relationship" is preferable to the term "normal family relationship" because we do not wish to use the word "normal" for the one case to imply abnomality in the other. This seems to us to be irrelevant to the point at issue.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, would the Minister agree that he has now gone on to Amendments Nos. 82 and 83, which have not yet been moved? It is not normal in this Chamber for the Minister to comment on amendments that have not yet been moved.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I believe that it is entirely relevant that I should comment because this is a combination of words devised to cover a particular form of teaching. One must look at this as a whole. That is what I said at the beginning. That is why I said I should have to look forward, as I had to on a previous occasion.

To summarise the Government's view of paragraph 2A(1)(b), we support its inclusion as a supplement to the general prohibition on the promotion of homosexuality. We believe it is important, in the light of developments in the education policies of some councils, to highlight the particular mischief which has led to real resentment among parents. We think it is right to make it clear on the face of the legislation that local authorities should not be using their limited powers to encourage teaching that portrays homosexual relationships which have the appearance of being family relationships, in most senses of that phrase, as being on those grounds a welcomed development or one to be emulated.

We believe that the wording of paragraph 2A(1)(b) expresses this mischief well, that it in no way prevents local authorities from advocating a tolerant and non-discriminatory approach to children living in such relationships and that it in no way interferes with the proper role of teachers.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for what he has said. However, he has not answered my question as to whether he agrees with the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, that "acceptability" is a word to occupy your Lordships, sitting in your judicial capacity, for hour after hour. Does the noble Earl agree or not agree with his noble friend Lord Skelmersdale? I see that the noble Earl is not prepared to answer that question and he has not answered other similar questions which I have asked throughout our proceedings today. That is indicative of the curious nature of this rather ugly clause. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 80 not moved.]

Lord Kilbracken moved Amendment No. 81:

Page 28, line 32, after ("as") insert ("the basis of")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I referred to this amendment earlier, but I wish to refer to it again because it goes back to the point raised earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, that homosexuality is an abstract concept and that it is quite impossible for homosexuality to be a relationship.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to this point and suggested using the words "the basis of" in the amendment she tabled. My amendment, if accepted, would speak about promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as "the basis of" a relationship. That makes sense and it is English. The present language, I suggest, cannot be. I beg to move.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I oppose this amendment. It is picking at words to no profit at all. It makes not the slightest difference to the sense. It is all part and parcel of the idea that you pick one word "pretended" and another word "acceptability" and push in other words such as "on the basis". If the sense of the intention is clear, as the Minister says it is, what is the profit of this exercise?

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I am astonished to hear a lawyer say that it does not matter whether or not the words are precise. I thought that that was the whole purpose of legislation: to have precise wording so that it can be properly interpreted in the courts.

The Earl of Caithness

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, was not satisfied with my reasons for rejecting his Amendment No. 81. I wonder whether, like my noble friend, how far we are likely to get by playing at semantics in this way. It seems to me that adding the words "the basis of" if anything weakens the meaning of the phrase, as a pretended family relationship". The phrase "the basis or is saying in a rather different way that someone is pretending. One does not need both. I believe that the present drafting is acceptable.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I can only say that I find the noble Earl's comments very extraordinary. The purpose of Committee and Report stages I have always supposed to be the consideration of legislation in detail, line by line and if necessary word by word. On one word or on one line there may be points which one wishes to raise and other points on words which come immediately afterwards. That is what both the noble Lord. Lord Henderson, and my noble friends have done in this case.

I do not believe that this is nitpicking. It is searching for the right words to put into an extremely important Bill. I believe that my proposals and those of other noble Lords have been important and worth considering. I believe that if my amendment were approved the language of this Bill would be greatly improved and at least it would be in correct English. However, I do not intend to divide the House at almost midnight and, therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 82:

Page 28, line 33, leave out ("pretended").

The noble Lord said: I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, would rather that I moved this amendment. I beg to move Amendment No. 82 and, for the convenience of the House, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 83. I should very much like to know the intended meaning of the word "pretended". I have been told that in legal jargon it means "claimed" but, of course, that is not the general understanding of the word "pretended".

I remind the House that the Renton Committee on the preparation of legislation, of which I had the honour to be a member, asked the Government if, so far as possible, they would legislate using words that ordinary people can understand. This is an extremely obscure word to find in modern legislation. Nobody reading the amendment could possibly claim that they knew that the word did not mean "pretend" as it is used by children in the expression, "let's pretend". That is the commonly accepted usage of the word and it is baffling, to say the least, that it should be put into this Bill in an archaic sense. That is why I wish to leave out the word "pretended".

Apart from anything else, I wonder if it really weakens the wording of the Clause at all if it is left out. What is the significance of it and why is it necessary? I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I have not detained the House very much this evening and I do not intend to do so now, but I want to defend the right of my noble friend and other noble Lords to deal with this difficult — nay impossible — wording not only line by line and word by word but syllable by syllable if they want to.

Lord Gifford

I support this amendment. I believe that the inclusion of the word "pretended" is perhaps the main remaining outstanding blot upon this clause, if we must have this clause at all. First, it adds nothing to the sense of the clause. It would be exactly the same if it read: A local authority shall not promote the teaching in any maintained school of acceptability of homosexuality as a family relationship". That would be quite clear and the word "pretended" is surplus. It is surplus in terms of legal interpretation but is not surplus in terms of popular perception, which is what this clause is about.

The Minister has not yet answered the moving plea made by my noble friend Lord Rea and also by myself to avoid insulting certain types of real relationships which occur in this world by the addition of what is really a term of abuse in the clause. What Parliament is saying through the use of this word is that relationships such as the relationships of my noble friend's family are a sham and a pretence. By saying that and allowing such words to stay in the Bill, the Government must accept that they are encouraging bigotry.

The Minister has tried hard to say that this is not about encouraging bigotry and intolerance against gay people. However, as long as this type of word is in the Bill, adding nothing, we are entitled to assume that that is really what is intended by the promoters, to try to whip up or to encourage the continuation of prejudice against relationships of the kind my noble friend has described and of the kind which Miss Mason described in the letter that I read. If by the deletion of a single word, even at this hour of the night, we can remove a real reason for this clause to he regarded as an encouragement to bigotry, we are not wasting the time of the House.

12 midnight.

Lord Monson

My Lords I entirely support the amendment. It seems to me that the sponsors of Clause 28 and the Government will have scored an own goal if they insist upon retaining the word "pretended". What after all is the opposite of a pretended family relationship? It is a genuine family relationship. We shall be faced with the paradoxical situation if the word "pretended" is retained that it will be illegal for local authorities to teach the acceptability of a pretended family relationship but perfectly legal for them to teach the acceptability of homosexuality as a genuine family relationship. If that is what the Government want, so be it.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, "pretended" is part of a single phrase which I have already tried to justify to your Lordships, although obviously not very successfully. I shall keep on trying because I am convinced that the clause as a whole is the right one. I therefore do not think that I can add very much to my explanation of the phrase as a whole.

The purpose of paragraph (1) is to give emphasis to a type of encouragement which some local authorities are giving and which is creating particular concern. The purpose is not, to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, to whip up prejudice. It is to meet a point that has led to serious concern. Had it not been for the concern that it generated, the phrase would not have been in the Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury.

We do not believe that it would be preferable to delete the term "pretended", as is the case with the next amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, which substitutes the word "normal", because we do not wish, by using the word "normal" for the one case, to imply abnormality in the other. If one looks at the clause as a whole and at the combination of the words, they fit together very well to exemplify one particular point.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I do not think he has explained whether in this place the word "pretended" means "claimed", which we are told is what lawyers mean by "pretended", or "pretended" in the sense of "let's pretend" as used by children, as the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, once again I must say that I am extremely disappointed by the reply from the noble Earl. To begin with, we have been told that pretended here is used in some mediaeval sense to mean claimed. Why do we have to use a word in its mediaeval sense? When we talk about pretending we do not mean claimed. We all know what is meant by it, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has indicated.

Secondly, what no one has made clear is who is doing the pretending. When we have this statement "homosexuality as a pretended family relationship", who is pretending? Is it meant to suggest that the homosexual couple is pretending that it is a family relationship, or is it just a gratuitous insult on the part of the Government or the draftsman suggesting that it is not a real relationship; it is merely a pretended relationship.

My noble friend Lord Gifford made a most convincing speech in which he pointed out that the word is otiose. It has no function in that paragraph and if it were deleted the meaning would he exactly the same. Moreover, it removes the insult.

It is already tomorrow. Perhaps I should withdraw that remark and say that it is no longer yesterday. I wish to greet the new day by stating that I cannot withdraw the amendment.

12.6 a.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 82) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 20; Not-contents, 43.

Airedale, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Birkett, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Ely, Bp. McNair, L.
Falkland, V. Monson, L.
Gifford, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Rea, L. [Teller.]
Hacking, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Seear, B.
Jeger, B. Shaughnessy, L.
Kilbracken, L. [Teller.] Willis, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Harvington, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Hesketh, L.
Beloff, L. Hives, L.
Belstead, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Blatch, B. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Borthwick, L. Kimball, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Buckmaster, V. Long, V.
Butterworth, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Caithness, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Caldecote, V. MacLehose of Beoch, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Carnock, L. Moyne, L.
Craigmyle, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Skelmersdale, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Stanley of Alderley, L.
Dundee, E. Strange, B.
Ferrers, E. Teviot, L.
Gisborough, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Glenarthur, L. Ullswater, V.
Goold, L. Wynford, L.
Halsbury, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

12.15 a.m.

[Amendment No. 83 not moved.]

Lord Kilbracken moved Amendment No. 84:

Page 28, line 33, leave out ("family").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must return for some more nit-picking. This time I propose very briefly to delete the word "family" from the clause. My point is that I do not think it can be disputed that there have to be children if there is to be a family. We talk about starting a family and so on. Of course it is possible, as my noble friend Lord Rea pointed out from his own experience, for there to be a homosexual relationship in which children are involved.

The two points that I wish to make arc these. First, such a relationship does not occur more than once in every thousand homosexual relationships. Therefore I do not see any point in introducing specially into this Bill a reference to a family relationship. Moreover if there is a family relationship involving two homosexuals I should have thought that that presented homosexuality in its most acceptable shape. We know that promiscuity is very often a feature of homosexual behaviour. That seems to me to be the face of homosexuality that should be specified and specifically condemned and not homosexuality when it constitutes a family relationship. Therefore I think it is wrong that that word should he included here. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, proposes the deletion of the word "family" from the phrase "pretended family relationship" in the proposed Section 2A (1) (b) of Clause 28. I attempted to explain in my comments on the previous amendments why the Government support the retention of the phrase chosen by the sponsors of the Bill as the best means of encapsulating the particular form of teaching that local authorities should not be promoting. The phrase teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". was devised as a means of indicating that local authorities should not be using their powers under Section 17 of the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 to encourage the teaching that relationships between two persons of the same sex can and should play the same role in society as the traditional family.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, not for the first time the noble Earl has referred to the sponsors of the Bill as if they are not the Government. What is the distinction between the sponsors of the Bill and the sponsors of this clause which appears in a government Bill? What is the distinction between the sponsors and the Government?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there is quite a big distinction in this case because as I think the noble Lord will be aware this was originally a Private Member's Bill in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury. It was therefore he who promoted these particular words. What the Government have done is accept the wording. The word "family" is an essential element of the phrase we are discussing. We are not concerned with pretended relationships. There is no doubt that two people of the same sex living as part of the same household have a relationship. There is nothing pretended about it. The word "pretended" in the phrase relates more to the concept that such a relationship is a conventional family relationship or the portrayal of it is as equally valid as the traditional family relationship. Without the word "family" the proposed Section 2A(1)(b) would lose an essential part of its meaning.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, as my parentage has been referred to in the original draft I wish to say a few words. We all learnt at school—did we not?—of the Old Pretender and the Young Pretender? What does "pretender" mean in that context?—somebody who makes the pretence of claiming to the throne or whatever it may be? This is a claimed family relationship and that is the reason for the choice of the word "pretended" which seems to me to be fully justified by its dictionary meaning.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, the noble Earl is speaking to the wrong amendment.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, we have got on to "family" now. We left "pretended" behind.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, I apologise to the House.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I should not dream of again dividing the House on this, but I should like to point out one matter to the noble Earl. If two of my amendments are accepted, then what a local authority shall not do is promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a relationship—not as a pretended family relationship, but as a relationship. Does the insistence of the Minister that the words "pretended" and "family" should be included mean that the acceptability of homosexuality as a relationship can perfectly well be a practice by local authorities? I do not think that he could possibly think that. Perhaps he does. If he does not feel inclined to respond to that matter, I shall beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, in calling Amendment No. 85 I must tell the House that if that amendment is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 86 to 88.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 85:

"Page 28, line 33, leave out from ("relationship") to end of line 37.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 86 to 88 not moved.]

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 89:

Page 28, line 40, at end insert ("or of providing information, counselling and advice in the interests of public health").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid that we are now well into tomorrow. It was not my intention to address this matter at this time of night. However, we have not yet turned our attention forward to subsection (2) of Clause 28. That reads: Nothing in subsection (1) above shall be taken to prohibit the doing of anything for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease". To that I propose to add: or of providing information, counselling and advice in the interests of public health".

The amendment stems from my intervention during the debate on 2nd February on whether or not Clause 28 should stand part. On the previous day the noble Earl had said, in response to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh that the Government believe—"believe" was his word—that care, counselling and health education are fully covered by the present formulation in subsection (2). On the following day he replied to me at col. 1017 of the Official Report that, nothing in the clause need affect what a local authority does in this field". The field being discussed was that of personal support and counselling services.

I raise the matter because I am still not convinced that the Government have thought it through. On the last occasion, I mentioned the Terrence Higgins Trust and its safer sex campaign for gay men which has been commended by the Department of Health and Social Security and by the Health Education Authority as well as by the Social Services Committee in another place. The trust receives a grant from central government which I think is in the region of £300,000 this year. The trust is seriously worried that Clause 28 could be used to censor a health education campaign that has worked outstandingly well so far.

Among other things, the trust runs what is called the Roadshow which is based at a disco in London. A disco is an establishment of which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, expressed some disapproval earlier this evening. The Roadshow tours the rest of the country, gives advice and information on safer sex and presents videos and provides counsellors to deal with individual inquiries. Much of that happens on premises at present licensed or provided by local authorities.

Surely it would be absurd if activities which are supported by central government have to be stopped because local government can no longer play its part. No doubt the noble Earl will repeat the assurances that I have already mentioned. His assurances are always of some comfort. But that comfort is necessarily limited because it will be the courts and not the noble Earl who interpret the statute. He may say, "Who on earth is going to invoke the courts against counselling and information in the interests of public health?". I have to tell your Lordships that there is little doubt in my mind that there are certain groups which will not hesitate to force a prosecution, as soon as the Bill is law, of certain material which they find distasteful that is an integral part of a safer sex campaign designed above all to limit the spread of HIV infection among the population at large.

Or, to follow another line of thought, if the words "promotion of homosexuality" and indeed "pretended family relationship-, which we have spent so much time discussing this evening, are to stand part of the Bill, as it seems that they are, even after the Government's amendments, what would their effect be on counselling whose object is to persuade homosexual people to reduce their partners to one, thereby in a sense simulating or approximating a family relationship or entering what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, called a stable quasi-permanent relationship, which is a highly desirable state of affairs one would have thought?

As a result of this clause, will we not be faced with the illogicality that it is meritorious to counsel a heterosexual person to be monogamous and faithful but that to counsel a homosexual to eliminate promiscuity and stick to one partner may be seen as promotion of homosexuality, and thus be illegal? Equally, may not material designed to inform about homosexuality and the dangers of certain practices, which is distributed in, say, a sixth-form college catering for young people between the ages of 16 and 19 and still maintained by a local education authority, be caught under Section 2A(1)(b), although it may form part of a sex education campaign?

I believe there is a distinct possibility that counselling and/or material designed to reduce the number of homosexual contacts may be caught under one or other of those formulations. On those grounds I seriously question whether the Government have thought through the implications of this clause for public health and welfare. It is not only the Terrence Higgins Trust which is perturbed. I have had a letter on this subject from the British Association of Counselling. I ought to declare an interest as I am a vice-president. I shall not read it out at this time of night for which I am sure that noble Lords will be grateful.

Some noble Lords will possibly also have heard from probation officers who feel that their work may be adversely affected in the process of counselling young offenders or homosexuals whom they frequently advise of the existence of voluntary groups which are supported by local authority funding and whose closure they would view with grave disquiet.

I do not want to be unconstructive. Obviously I shall not press this amendment tonight. However, I want the noble Earl to say at least that he will have another look at subsection (2) in consultation with the AIDS unit of the DHSS, the Health Education Authority and any other relevant body in this field. It may well be that there is some more apposite wording than I have proposed which the noble Earl himself may bring forward at Third Reading.

If he is not able to help me in some way, I am afraid that it will be difficult for me not to revert to this matter at a later stage. Indeed, it would be an enormous "own goal" if Clause 28 of the Bill in any way interfered with the Government's very successful campaign to stem the spread of AIDS in this country.

Finally, I want to say that in this very specific amendment I am not addressing some of the wider issues of civil rights, tolerance, discrimination and so forth that have already been discussed—I think rightly—in your Lordships' House this evening. I am looking at this matter in a coldly objective light from the point of view of public health, and I am not at all convinced that the Government have yet got subsection (2) right. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the reason for subsection (2) of the Bill as it stands seems to me to be perfectly explicit. It states: Nothing in subsection (1) above shall be taken to prohibit the doing of anything for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease". It is important not to say that twice, which is invited by accepting Amendment No. 89, but also to leave whoever are to be the judges of this matter—whether it be the courts or local authorities—free to make a judgment about the intention of the counselling or the production of the literature. I prefer to leave subsection (2) as it stands, simply saying that anything that is genuinely for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease is sufficient. I think that that subsumes the objectives of the noble Lord. I believe that some literature goes beyond the bounds of simply counselling or preaching safer sex to condoning and even promoting homosexuality.

12.30 a.m.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, this seems a sensible amendment. I cannot understand the argument of the noble Baroness. Surely the phrase that precedes this amendment refers to AIDS. That is the way I have read it. It is about the spread of disease.

This amendment talks about counselling and advice. That is the first time they have been mentioned. It is not old ground that has been gone over time and again, either at Committee stage or in your Lordships' House tonight. It seems to be new. It seems to chime exactly with the Government's intention. It cannot possibly harm the Bill. Above all, it will reassure dozens of dedicated and admirable men and women who are providing counselling services and advice. There is no other mention of counselling and advice in the Bill. I cannot believe that it will do anything but good.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, surely the phrase in subsection (2), "preventing the spread of disease", must include providing information, counselling and advice in the interests of public health".

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, a great deal of good sense has been spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, who moved this amendment and by my noble friend who has just spoken. I apologise—I am not referring to the noble Baroness, but to the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, who is sitting beside me.

The amendment would give reassurance to the voluntary societies and many others who do this work in good faith that this saving is additional to the saving which was put into the Bill, I believe by the Government, in Committee in another place.

There is yet one more argument which is of some importance. All of us wish to avoid busybodies or people taking actions against councils, perhaps out of spite, or as a result of misreading the Bill. It seems to me that it would save quite a number of possibly malicious actions being taken if this saving was spread a little more widely. It may well he that such actions would be legally aided. It would certainly be the case that the defence would have to come out of the rates. It is in all our interests that such actions are not promoted.

I believe that the extension of this saving would be a safeguard in that direction. That is an additional argument for the Government to take this proposal away and think about it. I have not heard a viable or valid argument against this amendment today. In that spirit, I hope that the noble Earl will consider the amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, it seems to me that this amendment is wholly reasonable and perfectly justified on a belts and braces argument. As someone who, unlike most of the Government's critics today, broadly supports the Government on Clause 28, perhaps I may make this point. Section 28—as it is to become—will get off to a very much better start if the Government could see fit to make just a few more concessions to those who, rightly or wrongly, are worried about this clause.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has proposed this amendment to the wording of Clause 28(2) specifically to exclude from the prohibition anything done for the purpose of providing information, advice and counselling in the interests of public health.

We consider this addition to be unnecessary. The existing subsection, which was introduced by way of a government amendment in another place, excludes from the prohibition the doing of anything for the purposes of treating or preventing the spread of disease. We consider that the existing wording already covers fully the activities referred to in the amendment of the noble Lord. It is difficult to think of anything that might be brought into the exclusion by the addition of the reference to providing information, counselling and advice in the interests of public health that would not be excluded by the present wording.

Public health is essentially the treatment of or preventing the spread of disease. I can certainly assure the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, that the clause will not stop local authorities from providing information, counselling and advice in the interests of public health". The sole purpose of Clause 28 is to stop local authorities intentionally promoting homosexuality which is quite a different matter. In some of the remarks that the noble Lord made, I fear that he did not quite grasp the significance of the government amendments which the House has accepted. I hope that when he comes studiously to read the Official Report, as I know he will, he will see the effect of the Government's amendments.

I make it clear that subsection (2) puts beyond doubt that anything done to prevent the spread of disease is in no way affected by the clause. That of course includes matters such as the road show to which the noble Lord referred when moving his amendment. We cannot think of anything that would be clearer than subsection (2).

As to the noble Lord's point concerning counselling, that is one of the most sensible ways of preventing the spread of AIDS and is therefore covered by the exemption: the doing of anything for the purpose of treating or preventing the spread of disease". Indeed, as my noble friend Lady Blatch so rightly pointed out, subsection (2) puts anything done for those purposes completely outside the prohibition of subsection (1); and it is the word "anything" that I stress to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, because if those people he mentioned who are concerned with the work will study the wording, particularly with reference to "anything", then I am sure their fears will be seen to be unfounded. The Government have gone all the way to meeting the concerns of the noble Lord.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords and Baronesses who have taken part in this very short debate. I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that I do not agree that the matter I am trying to introduce is subsumed in the clause as it is written. Noble Lords from the medical profession who are present in the Chamber would confirm that treatment is normally the province of a medical doctor. Prevention is also a function of the primary health care services. It can of course be promoted by public health campaigns but they usually take the form of television or leaflets and do not normally comprise counselling. After all, we are only talking about a matter of interpretation and we are not all that far apart.

I submit that the words I am striving to introduce to give greater clarity and coverage are not fully subsumed in the wording of the clause as it stands. I do not accept the noble Earl's view that the words proposed are unnecessary. I certainly did not try to introduce them lightly. The noble Earl, with all his responsibilities, does not have any at present in the field of health; he is not a health minister. I ask him, perfectly openly, whether he will consider consulting his right honourable friend Mr. Newton, who is obviously very much involved in the matter that I am trying to address in this amendment, to see whether that arm of the Government really are satisfied with the existing wording.

I made the point earlier that it is not the Government who will have to interpret the statute; it is the courts. The Minister may well consider that he has covered a certain situation, but he or the Government may find out that that is not so. I invite the noble Earl to give me a little comfort on this score and say he will consult some of his colleagues, or at least think about this matter, and if necessary return to the subject at a later stage.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord a little comfort: I can give him lots of comfort, because the DHSS has already been fully consulted.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am delighted to hear that from the noble Earl. I shall read carefully what he has said and the assurances he has given. On that note, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Henderson of Brompton moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 28, leave out lines 41 to 44.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 90 because it has been represented to me and it seems to me that the words in subsection (3) are unnecessary. I am advised that a court can draw such inferences as to the intention of the local authority as it sees fit without those words in the Bill. I am told that they are otiose. I should like to ask the Minister whether he agrees and for that purpose I beg to move.

Lord Airedale

My Lords, I believe that the most apt comment on this point made in Committee came from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, when he asked whether, without this subsection, the court would not be allowed to draw such inferences as it thought fit? I do not think that judges need to be told by an Act of Parliament that they may draw such inferences as they think fit. I think we owe a duty to the statute book not to fill it up with unnecessary clauses such as this.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, says that he has been disappointed to hear many of my replies and it is my turn to be disappointed that he has chosen to reopen the discussion on this government amendment which was agreed at the Committee stage. However, I am happy to explain once again the purpose of the subsection and to answer his queries.

Clause 28(3) provides that: In any proceedings in connection with the application of this section a court shall draw such inferences as to the intention of the local authority as it sees fit". The purpose of including the subsection was to make it quite clear that, in assessing the intention of an authority in any challenge that it had acted in breach of the Clause 28 prohibition, a court should be required to consider all the relevant circumstances of the case. It would not be sufficient for a local authority to deny that its intention had been to promote homosexuality nor, conversely, for a challenger to claim that its purpose had been to promote homosexuality when the evidence pointed to the contrary.

There is a view that the subsection is unnecessary because the court would be bound to take an objective view of the circumstances of the case. That point was argued by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. It would be unlikely to accept the authority's or the challenger's views of things without question. Nevertheless, the Government see great advantage in terms of' removing some of the unfounded fears that have been expressed about the effects of the prohibition in stating clearly that the court will draw such inferences as to the intention of the authority as it sees fit. This does not of course mean that the court is empowered to take an irrational view of matters. It will be obliged in the normal way to consider the facts of the case, to weigh the relevant factors and to come to an objective view about the authority's purpose on the basis of those factors.

The Government included this subsection as part of their clarificatory amendments to put it beyond doubt that activities by a local authority that were, on an objective view, free from any purpose of promoting homosexuality, would not be affected. We consider the subsection to be valuable in terms of removing the unfounded doubts of those who fear an irrational interpretation of the clause. I hope that the noble Lord will see the necessity for including this subsection.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, that amounts to the fact that the Government like to have belt and braces when concerned with their own amendments but wish to deny belt and braces to those of us who wish to reassure the public of other amendments. I am happier to have heard that explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.45 a.m.

Lord Willis moved Amendment N. 91:

Page 28, line 44, at end insert— ("(3A) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that nothing in this section shall—

  1. (a) authorise a local authority to discriminate against a person by reason of the sexuality of that person, or to treat a person in a less favourable manner than other persons on that ground; or
  2. (b) prevent a local authority from providing or supporting, otherwise than with the intention specified by subsection (1) above, activities or services the ground, or one of the grounds, for which a requirement or need of a person or persons connected with the sexuality of any person.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have carefully not intervened in the debate this evening but chose to save my time. If your Lordships will settle back, I promise not to keep the House for more than an hour or so on this final matter.

Speaking seriously, we now come to the broad sweep and, in a sense, the philosophy behind the Bill in this amendment which I do not pretend to be perfectly drawn. I think that in supporting this amendment the Government will now understand, as will the noble Lords opposite, that there is a sincere and genuine fear on the part of' those who have opposed the clause that it could lead to an increase in bigotry. All noble Lords who have supported the clause have disclaimed that intention. Successive noble Lords, including the Minister, have said that that is not the intention of the Government. The intention is not to start queer-bashing or homosexual hunts, but merely to limit this and to protect the children. Those of us who have been against Clause 28 love our children just as much as those who love Clause 28. We yield to nobody in our desire to protect them. We believe, however, that certain aspects of the clause are dangerous.

Noble Lords in this Chamber are tolerant and kind. In fact, this evening the House has been awash with tolerance. Hardly a noble Lord who has spoken has not said, "I am not against homosexuals". But there are people who are against homosexuals. There are people who would take the slightest excuse to jump on the bandwagon of bigots.

Many noble Lords must know that where homosexual people gather in odd pubs or in odd clubs they get chased out, they get beaten up and they get pelted by louts and yobbos. The tone and content of the clause and the way in which it has been amended—it is now a bit of a dog's breakfast—continue to leave open that possibility. There is the use of such phrases as "pretended" relationship, which we discussed a short while ago. It is a dirty word; it is not a good word.

I move the amendment because, despite all the assurances from the Government, the truth is that kind and tolerant words do not have the force of law. Ministers' statements and assurances that this is not what the Government intend in the Bill do not have the force of law. The court has to decide on the basis of the wording of the Bill. On cannot get up in court and say, "Your Worship, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, when explaining the Bill said that in fact it meant this". The judge is perfectly entitled to say, "That may very well be, but my opinion of the wording is that it means something else". Assurances from the Government are therefore no good.

We need something similar to this amendment. The key words are, "for the avoidance of doubt". Noble Lords who have said that they are against anything that may increase bigotry cannot but agree to support the amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Willis, should be congratulated upon his assiduous attention to the debates on this part of the Bill. Indeed, he has set a fine example to other noble Lords by sitting through all the speeches waiting for his turn. I am grateful to him for having tabled the amendment.

I recognise the concern of the noble Lord to ensure that the clause cannot be used as a justification for discriminating against homosexuals in the provision of services simply on the grounds of sexual orientation. I am anxious therefore to reassure him once again that his fears are groundless.

The Government are against discrimination in any form. It is no part of our intention in supporting Clause 28 to remove the right of homosexuals to receive council services. As ratepayers and electors, as a number of noble Lords have pointed out in the debates, they are entitled to have access to those services on the same basis that anyone else does. Nothing in Clause 28 interferes with that right. There is nothing in the clause that would authorise a local authority to discriminate against a person by reason of the sexuality of that person". The clause limits what a local authority may do. It confers no powers or authority whatsoever. Any claim to the contrary is, quite simply, without foundation.

Neither is there anything in this clause which would stop a local authority undertaking any activity or service within its powers, or assisting anyone else to do so, simply and solely because that activity or service is aimed at meeting the particular needs of homosexuals. An authority might, for example, wish to finance a voluntary organisation providing counselling and advice services to homosexuals: it is entitled to contribute to the funds of non-profit making bodies providing a public service— under Section 137(3) of the Local Government Act 1972— if it thinks it appropriate to do so.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has written to me, and no doubt to other noble Lords, suggesting that this clause will prevent the funding in the future of a number of groups offering services for homosexuals. I can reassure it that there is no reason why this should be the case provided that the intention of the local authority is to provide or support a service and the funding is within their powers.

An argument to the contrary could not be sustained by reference to the wording of the clause. The fact that the existence of such services might encourage people to use them is irrelevant. What is relevant, and the only thing that is relevant, is the purpose of the local authority in funding the service, not any unpredicted or incidental effect of their doing so.

The government amendments at Committee stage, together with those agreed by the House earlier today and yesterday, put it beyond doubt that it is the local authority's intention which is crucial to deciding whether it has acted unlawfully. The fact that that service is provided for the benefit of homosexuals is not material, unless the local authority's purpose in funding the service is to promote homosexuality. For example, the question has been raised whether it will continue to be open to local authorities to fund Gay Bereavement, a counselling service for homosexuals whose partner has died. If a local authority perceives a genuine need for such a service on grounds relevant to one of its powers to support voluntary organisations, and, having weighed all its priorities, decides that it is right to offer assistance to the service at public expense, it is entitled to do so. A court could find the authority in breach of the prohibition only if, having looked at all the circumstances of the grant, it could reasonably be held that the authority had funded the service in order to promote homosexuality.

This does not, of course, mean that a local authority would not have to tread very carefully in taking a decision to fund a service designed exclusively for homosexuals. It would have to be satisfied that its action could in no way be construed as promoting homosexuality. A court might well infer that an authority that gave assistance to Gay Bereavement but refused to give such assistance to CRUISE—the organisation that provides a similar support for widows—might have to face questions about its motives.

As I said at the beginning of this intervention, I have no doubt about the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Willis, in bringing forward amendments designed to make it clear that homosexuals need not, as a result of this clause, fear discrimination or the unreasonable revoking of local government services and support. The Government do not, however, believe his amendments to be necessary; our own amendments have made it quite clear that the unintended effects of council decisions and actions are not at issue.

Finally, I know that the noble Lord, and a number of other noble Lords, fear that the clause will have a negative effect; that it will encourage discrimination simply because it is concerned with stopping positive image policies. I have to tell him that we do not share that view. Indeed, we take the opposite view.

Clause 28 will deal with the activities of a few councils which have provoked considerable public disquiet and, regrettably, fuelled irrational prejudices. In the areas where problems have arisen, we believe that removing the source of this disquiet will go far to alleviate the resentment which was building up, particularly among parents. The prospects for increased tolerance and understanding will, we believe, be far better if the unacceptable activities of a few extremist councils can be stopped.

Lord Willis

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl for that statement. I return his compliment to me by saying how grateful I am for his courtesy and patience through these long debates, not only in Committee, but tonight. I am grateful, too, for the breadth and depth of the reply. As I said earlier, I do not think that it has the force of law but it will bring some comfort to many people who are worried. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report he now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and on Question, Motion agreed to.