HL Deb 16 December 1999 vol 608 cc57-8WA
The Earl of Sandwich

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which government department takes the lead on issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation; and what policies are being formulated to outlaw such discrimination. [HL305]

Baroness Blackstone

The Government are committed to combating all forms of unjustified discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The co-ordination of action on equality issues is the responsibility of the Cabinet Office. However, individual government departments develop policies on sexual orientation in the specific areas for which they are responsible.

The Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill to equalise the age of consent and strengthen protection of young people from abuse of trust will be reintroduced this Session. The Home Secretary has made clear that the Parliament Act will be used if necessary to secure the Bill's passage. The Home Office is also conducting a comprehensive review of sex offences and penalties. One of the terms of reference is that all new offences will have to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, as enacted by the Human Rights Act 1998, to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is taking forward the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Bill which prohibits local authorities from promoting homosexuality. The Equal Opportunities Commission in conjunction with the Department for Education and Employment is drafting a non-statutory code of practice on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment. The evaluation of the effectiveness of this code will inform any future decision on the need for legislation.