Section 28 votes

In a nutshell

A combination of three votes on Section 28, the law that banned Local Authorities from promoting homosexuality in schools and other places.

We record three votes: one in 1988 which tried to stop Section 28 becoming law, one in 2000 which tried to repeal Section 28 and one in 2003 on the actual repeal of the law.

The details

The introduction of the Clause in 1988

On 9th March 1988 the House of Commons voted to accept Clause 28 of the 1988 Local Government Bill which inserted a new Section 2A into the Local Government Act 1986.An opposition amendment was tabled by Dr Jack Cunningham. This would have scuppered the Clause, but the amendment was defeated by 256 votes to 203.1

‘Section 28’ or ‘Clause 28’ or ‘Section 2A’, as it is variously known, provided that a local authority should not

  • “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality,
  • promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”2

The Scottish Parliament repeals Section 28 in Scotland

In June 2000, the Scottish Parliament3 using its devolved powers repealed Section 28, despite considerable opposition in Scotland. Opinion polls had shown consistently that two thirds of the public in Scotland opposed repeal.4 In a referendum privately funded by Brian Souter one million Scots voted to keep Section 28 (this was 86.8% of those who voted).5

The referendum forced the Scottish Executive into several policy u-turns so that safeguards to protect children from inappropriate materials were introduced.

The failed attempt in 2000 to repeal Section 28 in England and Wales

In 2000 the Labour Government sought to repeal this legislation for England and Wales as part of its Local Government Bill. On 5th July the House of Commons voted for repeal of Section 28 by 307 votes to 135 but the repeal was rejected by the House of Lords.6

For the vote in 2000 MPs were told by their party to vote with party policy. MPs who voted against party policy risked damage to their political career.

The repeal of Section 28 in 2003 in England and Wales

In 2003 the Labour Government again sought to repeal this legislation for England and Wales, in the Local Government Bill. On the 10th March the House of Commons voted for the repeal of Section 28 by 78 votes to 370.

This time the House of Lords did not vote on Section 28 itself. Instead it voted on an amendment to replace Section 28 with provisions giving parents more control over sex education (such as the legal right to vet the materials used by schools). The amendment, tabled by Lady Blatch, was rejected in the Lords by 180 votes to 130.

Section 28 was, therefore, repealed by the Local Government Act 2003 without any replacement provision.

The circumstances surrounding the votes in Parliament in 2003 were very different from those three years earlier. The Conservative party abandoned its official support for Section 28 and did not require its politicians to vote for it. In addition, there had been more Peers appointed to the House of Lords who did not support Section 28.

For the Commons vote in 2003 Conservative MPs had liberty to vote according to their conscience. Labour and Liberal Democrat Party policy was to oppose Section 28. The Liberal Democrats whipped its MPs to oppose Section 28.7 Presumably the Labour Party did the same.

How we recorded the vote

  • Voted for Section 28
  • Voted against Section 28
  • Abstained or was absent on the votes for Section 28

An MP’s most recent vote has been taken to be their current position.

So for an MP who cast a different vote in 2003 to their vote in 2000 (or 1988) we have used the most recent vote, that in 2003.

Voting examples

For example, David Crausby voted against Section 28 in 2000, but for Section 28 in 2003. Our statement of his position gives his 2003 vote. Thus David Crausby has the designation Voted for Section 28.

For MPs who abstained or were absent in 2003, their vote in 2000 is taken to be their current position. If such an MP also abstained or was absent in 2000, their vote in 1988 is given.

For example, Diane Abbott abstained or was absent both in 2003 and 2000. Our statement of her position gives her vote in 1988, when she supported the amendment to scupper Section 28. Thus Diane Abbott has the designation Voted against Section 28.

  • 1House of Commons, Hansard, 9 March 1988, up to cols. 429 – 432
  • 2Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 added a new section 2A to the Local Government Act 1986
  • 3Scottish Parliament, Official Report, 21 June 2000, Vol. 7 No. 5, cols. 573 – 603. Section 34 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 repealed Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986, though this applies only to Scotland
  • 4Daily Record, 19 January 2000
  • 5The Herald, The Scotsman, Daily Record, 31 May 2000
  • 6House of Commons, Hansard, 5 July 2000, cols. 336 – 370 and House of Lords, Hansard, 24 July 2000 cols. 97-130
  • 7House of Commons, Hansard, 10 March 2003, col. 65