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The BBC's Carole Walker reports
"In the Lords tonight the government suffered an embarrassing defeat"
 real 28k

Jackie Smith MP
"A need for pupils to be given accurate information"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 21:23 GMT
Lords inflict Section 28 defeat
school classroom
Teachers will be told to stress the importance of marriage
Peers have inflicted a fresh defeat on the government in the row over lifting the Section 28 ban on the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The House of Lords, instead of backing sex education guidelines drawn up by ministers in consultation with church leaders, voted to accept a Tory amendment.

The government had hoped its guidelines would head off concern over the repeal of Section 28.

But the Lords supported an amendment from former Tory Cabinet minister Baroness Young which would further strengthen the promotion of marriage in schools in England.



I know I speak for the overwhelming majority of the population which does not want the promotion of homosexuality in schools

Baroness Young
Baroness Young - who said she would continue to fight for the retention of Section 28 - had argued that the government's guidelines would not prevent the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

The defeat for ministers means the government will go back to the House of Commons to try to overturn Baroness Young's proposals.

Education minister Baroness Blackstone said she would now consult with Prime Minister Tony Blair on the issue, saying Baroness Young's amendment could lead to "discrimination and bullying".

Peers voted by 190 votes to 175 to support the amendment.

'Inadequate'

The sex education guidelines would legally bind teachers to stress the importance of marriage and stable relationships.



The government is not prepared to support legislation which will lead to children from different family backgrounds being stigmatised and could lead to discrimination and bullying

Baroness Blackstone
But Baroness Young argued that the government had equated "stable relationships" and marriage as "building blocks of society" and this would open the door to the promotion of homosexuality in the classroom.

Education Secretary David Blunkett drew up the compromise guidelines after suffering a Lords defeat over Section 28 on 7 February.

But although the Liberal Democrats supported his proposals, the Tories opposed the move, which came as an amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill.

Lady Blackstone said Baroness Young's amendment "has demolished the carefully constructed agreement and safeguards built into the government amendment".

She said: "It has deliberately excluded the key objective that pupils are given accurate information for the purpose of enabling them to understand the difference and of preventing or removing prejudice.

'Back down'

"The government is not prepared to support legislation which will lead to children from different family backgrounds being stigmatised and could lead to discrimination and bullying."

The government's determination to overturn Baroness Young's amendment means further battles on the issue between the Labour-dominated Commons and the Lords, where the government does not have a majority.

Section 28 was introduced in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher, who was present at the vote on Thursday.

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See also:

24 Mar 00 | Education
Sex education 'a parents' job'
16 Mar 00 | Education
Sex teaching to emphasise marriage
07 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Government suffers Section 28 defeat
07 Feb 00 | Education
Sex guidelines in Section 28 row
07 Feb 00 | Education
Anti-gay bullies 'given free rein'
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