Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ban urged on 'homophobic' booklet in schools

A Liberal Democrat peer has urged the government to ban a booklet allegedly containing homophobic material from the school curriculum.

Lord Rennard claimed the publication, Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, was "clearly" homophobic, undermined HIV prevention campaigns and was "likely to incite further homophobic bullying".

He raised the matter with the government during the daily half-hour question session in the Lords on 28 February 2012.

Responding, Education minister Lord Hill said the government took the issue of homophobia in schools "very seriously", but refused to ban the booklet.

He told peers that homophobic bullying was covered by the Equality Act 2010.

But curriculum materials were excluded from the legislation "as a ban could inhibit classroom debate and the illustration of different viewpoints".

Lord Hill added that the government had "no plans" to change its position reached in the legislation two years ago.

The opposition contested the government's reply, claiming that the education department's explanatory notes to the bill "made it clear" the curriculum was covered by the act.

"This would obviously outlaw any activity, such as the document we've been talking about, that could lead to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation," Baroness Jones of Whitchurch said.

Lord Hill responded that there was a "clear distinction" to be made.

He said teaching that encouraged homophobic bullying would fall foul of a "range of different pieces of legislation" but the "ban on that type of behaviour and what is done in lessons does not extend to particular source material".

Some people might think The Merchant Of Venice encouraged anti-Jewish sentiment, he said.

"Should that be outlawed? No, it clearly shouldn't. And that is the distinction that I'm seeking to draw between the use to which materials are put and the materials themselves."

Following a question from Labour peer Lord Adonis, the minister revealed he had read the booklet, and that he did not subscribe to many of the views expressed.

"But then there are many pieces of information, material, literature I see to which I don't subscribe to all the views, and I don't have a great desire to ban people who hold views different from mine," he added.

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