§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he proposes to lay before Parliament the draft Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order which was published last year as a proposal.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins
A proposal for a draft order was published by the previous Government last July at the beginning of a consultation period which lasted three months. Consultation showed that strong views are held in Northern Ireland, both for and against a change in the existing law. Although it is not possible to say with certainty what is the feeling of the majority of people in the Province, it is clear that a substantial body of opinion there—embracing a wide range of religious as well as political opinion—is opposed to the proposed change. In considering its own position the Government have taken into account not only the results of the consultation exercise but also the fact that legislation on an issue such as the one dealt with in the draft order has traditionally been a matter for the initiative of a private Member rather than for Government. At present, therefore, the Government propose to take no further action in relation to the draft Homosexual Offences Order, but we would be prepared to reconsider the matter if there were any developments in the future which were relevant.