6 Dec 1999, 8.31 p.m.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I can claim to have been elected to local government even longer than the noble Lord, Lord Graham. I hope that it will not offend him or other noble Lords if I call him my noble friend Lord Graham. We have known each other a long time.
I am tempted, also, to stray to the main body of the Bill. However, at this hour I feel I must concentrate all of my time on Clause 68. I have a special interest in this matter. I must tell your Lordships that it was I who introduced and carried through Section 28 as a Private Member's Bill in the other place in 1987. I fought the
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Labour Party's blocking of it and reintroduced it as a clause in the Local Government Bill after this House approved the principle in yet another Bill.
I must warn all colleagues who have spoken tonight that in speaking in support of Section 28 they may well incur considerable wrath, as I did. I did not only incur verbal abuse for my pains but physical abuse too. On one occasion, opponents of Section 28 attacked me outside my constituency office and tried to turn my car over with me inside it. I was saved by the swift arrival of several police cars with sirens blaring.
Why did I bother to go on with it and run such a dangerous gauntlet? I was then Chairman of the Child and Family Protection Group. I was contacted by parents who strongly objected to their children at school being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated. To add insult to their injury, they were infuriated that it was their money, paid over as council tax, which was being used for this. This all happened after pressure from the Gay Liberation Front. At that time I took the trouble to refer to their manifesto, which clearly stated:
"We fight for something more than reform. We must aim for the abolition of the family".
That was the motivation for what was going on, and was precisely what Section 28 stopped. I was absolutely amazed to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, who, as I noted, stated that the Bill was introduced in the other place and joined to the Local Government Bill for something that was not happening. I was astounded to hear that. I wondered what sort of ivory tower he inhabited. Let us be kind and say, instead, that he was too busy working on his own committees to realise what was going on.
However, I would be surprised to learn that he did not see parents of children in his own local government constituency. Parents certainly came to me and told me what was going on. They gave me some of the books with which little children as young as five and six were being taught. There was The Playbook for Kids about Sex in which brightly coloured pictures of little stick men showed all about homosexuality and how it was done. That book was for children as young as five. I should be surprised if anybody supports that.
Another book called The Milkman's on his Way explicitly described homosexual intercourse and, indeed, glorified it, encouraging youngsters to believe that it was better than any other sexual way of life.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. I do not disbelieve a word stated by the noble Baroness. However, what she says is so grotesque that I would be grateful if, before Committee, she could supply copies of the books she mentions. We shall then be able to look at them and no doubt will be as abhorred as she was. From her description it is both obscene and grotesque. I do not believe a word of it, from my experience. My noble friend Lord Harris spoke from his experience and I spoke from mine. Edmonton and Enfield may be
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different from Edgbaston and Birmingham. However, I can assure noble Lords that the issues raised in the noble Baroness's part of the world were certainly not raised in mine.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I do not refer to parents from my own constituency but to those from some of the very left-wing boroughs in London. I was keen to get rid of the books but I know they still exist because they were produced to me by parents. I was shown what the children were being taught and told why the parents objected so much.
Another book, which I should have thought everyone would remember, was called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. It depicted, on its cover, a little girl of about six years old sitting up in bed with her naked father on one side and his naked lover on the other. I shall quote the exact words used in the book because that, more than anything else, shows the age for which it was intended. It stated:
"Jenny is a little girl. Martin is Jenny's dad and Eric is Martin's lover. They all live happily
The book went on to state that Eric, the father, drew Jenny a series of cartoons of two men who were saying:
"I love you Fred"
"I love you too, Bill. Why don't we move in together?"
"That's a good idea".
Lord Waddington: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. Perhaps I may ask for her comments. I am told that the publisher of that very book stated only the other day:
"When Section 28 is successfully repealed, as I believe it will be shortly, we will be rushing
to re-publish an updated version of the book. We shall make sure that every school which
wants a copy will get a copy."
What does my noble friend have to say about that?
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for drawing my attention and that of the House to what is now being keenly anticipated. It would amaze me if anyone in this House supported what we have just heard. It was those matters which made me introduce Clause 28 and it is important that the House understands that.
I referred earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. Haringey council made a video called "How to become a lesbian in 35 minutes". It was intended to be shown in a school for mentally handicapped girls, some of whom were extremely young. In the course of my years as a local councillor I took a great interest in the mentally handicapped children in my area; I served on the boards of schools and had a great deal to do with them. From my experience of those children, it is difficult enough for them to understand normal sexual relations without having homosexuality foisted upon them. I find it horrifying that anyone would support that.
All of that was stopped dead by Clause 28. Clause 28 was introduced for that purpose, and that purpose alone. It was not intended to harm people who, as
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adults, decided that that was the way of life for them. Clause 28 had nothing to say about that. It was certainly not my intention at any time to try to marginalise or be unfair to those who choose the homosexual way of life. But I am anxious about little children and feel I have a perfect right to be so.
When Clause 28 was introduced, it was recognised that it was necessary. My provision obtained a big majority in the other place, though the most wild allegations were being made. Some people suggested that it would not allow the production or teaching of Shakespeare in schools. That has been proven to be quite wrong, as were many other allegations. My noble friends Lord Waddington and Lady Blatch made it clear that there was nothing in Clause 28 which could encourage or initiate bullying. We all hate bullying. It happens for a number of reasons and it is the job of the teacher to notice it happening and to stop it. There was no suggestion that Clause 28 encouraged bullying and I utterly reject that allegation. In fact, I am in touch with a number of schools and school governors. I am known to be the initiator of Clause 28 and have had not one complaint that it led to bullying. I am sure that I would have done. Clause 28 was intended solely to protect little children. Those who seek to repeal it now must explain why they seek to withdraw that protection and on what grounds they so deplore normal family life.
In the past week I have received over 1,000 letters and petitions from those who support what is now Section 28. I ask your Lordships, and in particular I ask the Government, to realise that there is a well of public opinion that is extremely anxious that it be abolished. People are anxious that their children should not be subject to that kind of proselytising. I suggested to some of those who wrote to me that they ought to write to their Members of Parliament and tell them their views. Many of them did so and some sent me the replies. The Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown said that he understood the concern but had to point out that no prosecutions had ever been brought as a result of Section 28. Does that show it is not successful? I should have thought it showed the reverse.
My noble friend Lord Waddington mentioned Nick Seaton. He is the chairman for the Campaign for Real Education and once said:
"Before Section 28 came into force we were getting considerable numbers of parents
complaining to us about the promotion of homosexuality in schools. After Section 28 it almost
disappeared as an issue. If Section 28 were to be repealed, it is almost certain that the
promotion of homosexuality would become a huge bone of contention between parents and
The interjection from my noble friend proves that that is the case. However, when the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, spoke, she was very soothing and said that there are a whole number of new rules. But when Clause 28 was introduced there were already rules about governors; that what was being taught should be passed by the whole school; but it was still taught. The noble Baroness said that one of the new rules was that there should be no promotion of homosexuality. But if we repeal Section 28 that is
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exactly what will happen. The message will be: "Go out and promote homosexuality; go ahead. There is no earthly reason why you should not". And that worries me greatly.
I particularly noticed that at the start of this debate the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, called Section 28 "pernicious". I went to the Library and looked up the word in the dictionary. The meaning of the word pernicious is,
"wicked, malicious, causing grave harm".
I feel that the situation is the other way round; that it is wicked to tell children of five and six years old how to commit a homosexual act and encourage them to do so; that it is malicious to approach young mentally handicapped girls with the idea that homosexuality is a good way to proceed. I do not know what could cause more grave harm than to try to promote, as does the book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, marriage as being outdated; that we should not have a mummy and daddy and can just as well have a daddy and a homosexual lover. I warn the Government that if they proceed with this, they will come up against a great deal of public objection, with which I heartily agree.