BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Gay ban must go: Blair

The government may bring in a new bill next session
The prime minister has insisted he remains committed to scrapping the ban on promoting homosexuality by local authorities - despite a bitter fight to save it.

Tony Blair condemned Section 28 as "a piece of prejudice, pure and simple".

Hasn't your crusade for political correctness gone far enough now?

William Hague
But in heated exchanges, he was branded "totally out of touch with the people" by Conservative leader William Hague.

On Tuesday, ministers backed down on scrapping the controversial Section 28 in this parliamentary session after the House of Lords voted on Monday - for a second time - to preserve it.

Section 28 prevents local authorities in England and Wales from promoting homosexuality.

'Lords more in touch'

Conservative leader William Hague said peers had accurately reflected public opinion and told Mr Blair he was "out of touch with gut British instincts".

Any parent has the right, absolutely, to withdraw their children from sex education

Tony Blair
In their final Commons clash before the summer recess, the Tory leader said: "You could at least listen to your own supporters in your own party on this issue: the Labour peer Lord Stoddart who said there has been an outcry throughout the country, Lord Mishcon who said the government are misunderstanding the mood of the people.

"You could listen to more than a million people in Scotland who voted to keep Section 28."

And he asked the prime minister: "Do you agree that on this issue the House of Lords have more accurately reflected public feeling than the House of Commons?"

Mr Blair replied: "No. I believe that Clause 28 is a piece of prejudice. I think it is right to remove it. I remain committed to removing it."

He accused Mr Hague of "pandering to prejudice". He added: "It's not a pretty sight."

'End your campaign'

The Opposition leader also attacked the prime minister by saying: "Hasn't your crusade for political correctness gone far enough now?

"You have been told by church leaders to scrap your campaign. You've been told by Parliament to scrap it. You have been told by the public to scrap it.

"You've packed the Lords with your cronies and you still can't get it through. So will you now scrap the repeal of Section 28 from the next session and from your next election manifesto?"

Mr Blair said the government was intent on removing it, because that was the right thing to do. He said all objections had been removed.

"The reason I believe it is right to repeal this clause is that ... having taken account of the one serious objection put forward by people, their worry about sex education in schools, it is now a piece of prejudice, pure and simple," he said.

'No gay sex lessons'

The Conservative party still had more life peers than Labour in the Lords, he said.

Mr Blair said the objection "that somehow we were going to allow schools to have homosexual sex education lessons" had been rubbished by government amendments.

He said it was not true that schools would be "forced or allowed" to teach gay sex education.

"As a result of amendments tabled to the Learning and Skills Bill, it is made absolutely clear that sex education is for schools, teachers and parents and that any parent has the right, absolutely, to withdraw their children from sex education."

The government faces intense pressure from gay rights groups to repeal the clause.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Ministers back down on gay ban
24 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Section 28: An overview
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair move backfires again
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
The new Iron Lady
24 Jul 00 | Education
Section 28 more symbol than substance
18 Jul 00 | Education
Sex guidelines threat defeated
31 May 00 | UK
The Section 28 battle
24 Jun 00 | Scotland
S28 debate - one to remember?
20 Jan 00 | Scotland
When gay became a four-letter word
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories