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Wednesday, 26 January, 2000, 16:02 GMT
Resist Section 28 repeal - Hague

William Hague: His MPs will face a three-line whip to vote to keep Section 28

Conservative leader William Hague has underlined his support for the controversial Section 28 ban on promoting homosexuality.

Mr Hague is opposed to the government's plans to repeal the ban, saying it was guilty of contempt for parents and tax-payers.

Downing Street suggested MPs may be given a free vote over the ban when they debate the issue contained in the Local Government Bill later this year.

But some Labour MPs have reacted angrily at the suggestion, saying the government should use a whipped vote to send a clear signal of its determination to have Section 28 abolished.

The row over the lifting of the ban has intensified over the past week with clergy, politicians and family groups becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition.

Shaun Woodward: Left the Tories over the issue
In an article for the Daily Mail, Mr Hague said: "The government is showing contempt for the views of most parents and taxpayers.

"We will oppose them at every stage."

The Conservative Party said it would consider amendments, including making it clear that teachers should not feel inhibited about preventing bullying.

Tory opposition to removing the ban resulted in its frontbench spokesman Shaun Woodward defecting to Labour last month.

Mr Woodward argued that keeping Section 28 would prevent teachers tackling homophobic bullying in schools.

Mr Hague rejected this, saying: "The truth is that section 28 allows appropriate action by schools and councils to educate children.

"At the same time it prevents, mainly through deterrence, public authorities from engaging in the sort of inappropriate activity that resulted in such public disquiet in the 1980s.

'Issue of conscience'

"This balance is absolutely correct."

Mr Hague drew a sharp distinction between the Section 28 issue and the debate over the equalisation of the age of consent.

"I believe that the age of consent for homosexuals is an issue of conscience and should be determined by a free vote of MPs. I believe, myself, that the age of consent should be 16.

"Yet I also believe in what is known as Section 28 and I intend to lead my party through the division lobbies against the government's plans to repeal it."

Mr Hague made it plain that his MPs faced a three-line whip on the issue.

Labour MPs are also calling for the government to order a whip at the vote.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Section 28 row intensifies
25 Jan 00 |  UK
The Section 28 battle
25 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Section 28 backers deny U-turn

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