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Sunday, 2 September, 2001, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Duncan Smith 'to rethink' Section 28
Tory leadership contenders
Mr Duncan Smith insists his view is unchanged
Tory leadership contender Iain Duncan Smith has indicated that if he wins, he would consider repealing a law which stops councils from promoting homosexuality.

He said Section 28 had become a "totem" which identified the party with hate and dislike of people.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he said he would "look at it again" if elected as Conservative leader.

But he insisted it was important to protect children from "influences that are malign".


Children do need to be protected from those in authority who may have another agenda

Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith has until now been a supporter of Section 28.

Aides to his leadership rival Ken Clarke have accused Mr Duncan Smith of a last-minute u-turn on the policy, in a "desperate" bid to broaden his support base.

But speaking on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Duncan Smith denied he had had a change of heart.

He said: "You need to find a way of making one group feel less stigmatised, but at the same time preserving what we think is best, which is that children do need to be protected from those in authority who may have another agenda.

"I think every parent would agree with that."

'Matter of honour'

At the beginning of the leadership contest in June, Mr Duncan Smith defended his party's policy on Section 28.

And under William Hague, he was party to the shadow cabinet's decision to oppose the government's efforts to scrap it.


Some people... voted for him precisely because of his views on this.

Ann Widdecombe
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, who is supporting Mr Clarke in the leadership contest, said Mr Duncan Smith should clarify his position on Section 28 as a "matter of honour".

"Anybody can change their mind over a long period of time, but not in two weeks," she said. "Only a few weeks ago, Iain took exactly the opposite view to that which is now attributed to him.

"People who have already voted have done so on a false prospectus. Some people have told me that they voted for him precisely because of his views on this.

"Either he has been very easily influenced, or it is a very cynical move. He must spell out exactly where he stands on this. People have a right to know."

Cannabis challenge

Mr Duncan Smith also said he would listen to arguments supporting the legalisation of cannabis, but added that would-be reformers would have to present a convincing case.

He said: "At the moment we have laws, and those who want to change it, who argue that somehow it will be improved by breaking that down, I say to them come forward with your case ... if it is a convincing case, then any rational person will seriously look at it.

"But unless it is convincing, then we have to make do with what we have got."

Public services

Mr Duncan Smith told Breakfast with Frost he wanted to focus on core issues like public services.

"We now must be obsessed with the issues that obsess the British people, health, education, the environment."

Earlier this week, party chiefs revealed that 181,300 of the 318,000 party members had returned their ballot papers by the halfway stage of the contest.

Voting closes in 11 days time.

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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Iain Duncan Smith wants to prove his open to change"

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02 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
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