Blair rejects claims he will ditch repeal of Section 28

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair dismissed speculation yesterday that he was preparing to ditch his commitment to repeal Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities.

Defending his plans to scrap the controversial legislation, the Prime Minister denied during question time that children would be forced to take part in gay sex lessons as a result.

"We remain committed to the repeal of it and we, in particular, remain absolutely set against the mischievous propaganda campaign run against this that has suggested that, in some way, by repealing Clause 28, children in our schools are going to have their sex education lessons changed.

"That is completely untrue. Since 1994... Section 28 has not applied to schools in England and Wales," he said.

The Government was defeated by peers last week over plans to introduce new guidelines, promoting marriage and stable relationships, which would replace Section 28 of the Local Government Act.

Ministers decided to come forward with a compromise after they suffered an earlier heavy defeat over the abolition of Section 28.

Mr Blair added: "No child is going to be forced to take part in gay sex lessons in schools. No child is going to be engaging in school sex lessons that are wrong.

"Sex lessons in schools will carry on being the prerogative of teachers, parents and governors. Parents will carry on having the right to withdraw their children from those sex education lessons."

But William Hague urged Mr Blair to abandon this "politically correct nonsense" if peers defeated the Government again.

He suggested that the Prime Minister was sick of the issue and should "simply say 'I tried and failed, now good riddance to the issue'.

"If you are not willing to back down on this, why do you have your ministers running around telling newspapers that you are heartily sick of the issue and ready to give up on the whole thing?" Mr Hague said. "Just so we know what we have to do to get you to back off from this politically correct nonsense will you tell us: if the Lords defeat it one more time will you abandon it?"

The Tory leader insisted Section 28 applied to councils administering schools and applied to the advice and materials that councils give to schools.

He told Mr Blair: "When are you going to realise that the majority in this country are tolerant and are understanding but they do not want their children subject to politically correct propaganda?

"Why don't you listen to the common sense of the great majority of the country and abandon this now before it gets to the Lords?"

The Prime Minister, in a scathing attack of the Tories' position, accused Mr Hague of hiding behind prejudice.

"There is one reason and one reason only why people are concerned about the repeal of Clause 28: because they are being told that it affects sex education in schools.

"If you do not want to be accused of hiding behind prejudice you should say whether you accept that what I have just said is true.

"The truth of the matter is that this campaign is based on people who don't want to come out and say they are prejudiced against gay people and so they hide behind the issue of child protection," he said.