Widdecombe to take fresh stand over Section 28

Ann Widdecombe is threatening to reopen Tory policy divisions over Section 28, the legislation banning the "promotion" of homosexuality by local education authorities.

Some senior Conservatives had hoped the issue could be allowed to die quietly next week during the committee stage of the Local Government Bill. But the former shadow Home Secretary has made clear that she will mount a "freelance operation" from the back benches if the leadership failed to press the issue at report stage.

Her warning is likely to persuade David Davis, the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, to table a fresh amendment to the Government's Bill giving parents a direct say over sex education taught in schools.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, and Mr Davis agreed earlier this year to back a new policy on Section 28 that would protect children without stigmatising homosexuals. The law was introduced by the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The Tory alternative will compel headteachers to ballot all parents if 5 per cent object to the content of the materials used for sex education. Bill Cash, the shadow Attorney General, has spent recent days finalising the amendment.

John Bercow, Tory MP for Buckingham, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over gay adoption, has been joined by Michael Portillo and other liberal backbenchers in signing a cross-party amendment aiming to abolish Section 28.

Several Tories believe that the whole controversy can only do damage to the party. "We walk straight into Labour's trap if we get too strident about this," one said. As a result, Mr Davis has been under pressure to table his compromise amendment only in committee, where it would be defeated by the Labour majority, and not bring it back to the floor of the Commons for the report stage.

But Ms Widdecombe said: "I hope we are sensible and bring it to the floor of the House. If we don't, I and others will conduct a freelance operation to make sure it does."

Meanwhile, Mr Duncan Smith dismissed reports of a leadership challenge by Mr Davis. Echoing a report in The Independent last year, a newspaper said Mr Davis was prepared to fight against Kenneth Clarke if Mr Duncan Smith should step down. Mr Duncan Smith said: "It's absolute rubbish. The reports are simply rubbish – it's all been dropped now."

Mr Davis said in a statement: "I have made it clear before that under no circumstances will I mount a challenge to Iain Duncan Smith. I believe that he is doing a first-rate job in leading the Conservative Party. I firmly believe that Iain will lead the party into the next general election and that he will win it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea