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The BBC's John Pienaar
"There's a good deal of ingrained opposition to getting rid of this bill"
 real 28k

Stuart Bell
"The government cannot get past the House of Lords."
 real 28k

Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 10:29 GMT
Government struggles to lift Section 28

Opponents of Section 28 say it prevents schools dealing with homophobia

The government will continue to face opposition to its move to repeal the controversial Section 28 ban on local authorities promoting homosexuality, a Labour MP has warned.

Peers backed by 210 to 165 an amendment to keep Section 28 during the committee stage of the Local Government Bill on Monday night.

The government has expressed disappointment at the result but stressed that it is determined to press on with plans to repeal the ban.

It is meeting with church leaders, among the most vocal opponents to the lifting of the ban, following the defeat.

'Not acceptable'

Before the vote on Monday, Education Secretary David Blunkett sought to counter fears about schools promoting homosexuality by publishing guidelines for sex and relationships education, stressing "that it is not the job of teachers to promote a particular sexual orientation".

But Stuart Bell, Labour MP for Middlesborough, said the government would have to come up with legislation that would satisfy opponents.

"What is not acceptable is a total repeal of Section 28 without anything put in its place," he said.

Stuart Bell: "Two debates confused"
"The guidelines will be sufficient but the legislative root to the repeal of Section 28 is bad. Unless the government comes up with a suitable section that would meet the concerns of those who are opposed to the repeal of Section 28, it will not get on the statute book.

"The government cannot get past the House of Lords and they cannot put this on the statute book until the Lords agree. The legislative difficulties are in the Lords not the Commons."

Ministers will try to overturn the defeat in the Commons where Labour MPs will be whipped to support the repeal, before the bill returns to the Lords.

'Broad debate'

But if peers reject the repeal again then the bill could be delayed and ultimately lost.

As the bill was introduced initially in the House of Lords, the government cannot use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through.

Opponents of Section 28 say the law prevents schools from tackling homophobic bullying.

On Monday, Labour peer Lord Alli, who is gay, accused the supporters of having the same "morality of hate" as the bomber who blew up a gay pub in Soho, central London.

But Mr Bell said: "There are two debates going. One is the nature of society, whether homosexuality and heterosexuality are equivalent in society.

"That is a broad debate we can have and Lord Alli contributed to that yesterday.

"The second debate is the specific repeal of Section 28 which deals with the intentional promotion of homosexuality in schools.

"On the Lord Alli debate I think we should have a debate on the nature of our society whether heterosexuality is a moral equivalent of homosexuality.

"But I think we should keep children out of that debate by maintaining Section 28 and keeping the intentional promotion of homosexuality out of schools."

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See also:
08 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
New talks after Section 28 defeat
07 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Government suffers Section 28 defeat
08 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Post staff suffer Section 28 backlash
07 Feb 00 |  Education
Anti-gay bullies 'given free rein'
07 Feb 00 |  Education
Sex guidelines in Section 28 row

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