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The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"Quite a long way to go before this argument is settled"
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Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
Souter and Boy George clash
Question Time
The panel debated repeal of Section 28
Transport tycoon Brian Souter and pop star-turned DJ Boy George have clashed in a televised debate on repeal of Section 28.

Boy George, who is gay, and Mr Souter, who has funded a campaign opposing repeal of the law banning promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship, challenged each other on the BBC's Question Time programme.

Mr Souter defended his decision to support a private ballot on repeal in Scotland but his stance was attacked by Boy George.

Boy George
Boy George: Condemned Souter poll

The Stagecoach boss won support from fellow panelist, Tory trade and industry spokeswoman Angela Browning, but was further challenged by Liberal Democrat MP Charles Kennedy, who described the poll as "dangerous".

The debate took place just hours after the Scottish Executive announced a major concession in their proposals for reform of what is commonly known as Section 28 but is in fact Section 2a of Scottish local authority legislation.

Ministers promised to go ahead with repeal but allow parents legal redress if local authorities and schools fail to follow guidelines on what is deemed appropriate sex education.

The lack of legal force had been a key bone of contention for many opposed to reform.

People want to have more influence in what concerns their families

Brian Souter

Mr Souter did not reveal if he was prepared to rethink his position on repeal but instead sought to defend his support for the Keep the Clause campaign.

When the panel was asked by a member of the audience if wealthy individuals should be allowed to referenda, Mr Souter replied: "Guilty as charged.

"The Labour Party would not be able to function without the substantial contribution it gets from trade unions and from wealthy individuals.

"The Tory Party functions with the contributions that its members makes to it.

"There's absolutely no difference between that and what I'm doing here except I am not obtaining a knighthood in return for it - that's the difference, there's nothing coming back on the turn."

Brian Souter
Brian Souter: Defended his position

Mr Souter said the Section 28 ballot was independent and was a key democratic issue because neither Labour nor their Liberal Democrat coalition partners in Scotland had included repeal of the clause in their manifestos.

However, Mr Kennedy told Mr Souter: "What I'm not in favour of, and I think it is a very dangerous road to go down, is that the more successful and prosperous you are the more you can seek to influence the public in this country."

When asked for his views by presenter David Dimbleby, Boy George said he felt Mr Souter was motivated by "personal reasons" and added: "By sitting here I am promoting homosexuality, by living an openly gay lifestyle."

Boy George said gay people also have families and told the audience: "I am a godfather. Should I be kept away from my nieces and nephews?

You could have given your money to Great Ormond Street or any other charity

Boy George

"It is fine to use his (Mr Souter's) money if he is making the world a better place."

Mr Souter attacked Mr Kennedy, saying: "He wants everything to be confined to elected politicians.

"It is not good enough to get elected with a manifesto of just four points and then carry out a series of measures."

He said people were concerned at the "presidential" style of politics that Britain appeared to be developing.

"People want to have more influence in what concerns their families."

And he accused Mr Kennedy of being jealous of the amount of money being spent, saying: "Your gripe is that no one gives you any money."

'Politically correct councils'

Boy George intervened, saying: "You have wasted your money. Section 28 is going to be repealed anyway.

"You could have given your money to Great Ormond Street (children's hospital) or any other charity."

Also appearing on the programme, Labour peer Lord Falconer defended the party's policy and urged Scots to reject the ballot.

But Mr Souter argued: "We have to look at why it came into being in the first place.

"Politically-correct councils were putting into place material which parents found completely unacceptable."

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See also:

07 May 00 | Scotland
March for Section 28 repeal
06 May 00 | Scotland
Section 28 vote dubbed a farce
11 May 00 | Scotland
Souter defends Section 28 stance
11 May 00 | Scotland
Ministers in Section 28 rethink
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