Green MP Caroline Lucas has accused right-wing Conservative MPs of filibustering a bill to make sex and relationship education statutory.
The MP has made several attempts over the past few years to pass a bill that would create a legal requirement for Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in schools, only to be blocked by Tories.
Her latest bill was set to be debated in the Commons last Friday, requiring state-funded schools to teach LGBT-inclusive sex ed in a way that “promotes equality” and “encourages acceptance of diversity and difference”.
However, the time allocated for debate was burned up by backbench Conservative MPs, who spent four-and-a-half hours debating a preceding maritime shipping bill – leaving just five minutes for Ms Lucas’ bill to come to the floor.
Tory MP Philip Davies, an opponent of LGBT equality, spent more than an hour speaking on the shipping bill, while a string of other Tory MPs including David Nuttall and Alan Mak also delivered lengthy speeches supporting it. Ms Lucas alleges the speeches were aimed at running down the clock on her debate.
Ms Lucas said: “Although I completely support the Bill that preceded mine, there is an irony that has not gone unnoticed: Members have spent many hours debating a wholly uncontroversial Bill, while my Bill is about tackling discrimination and bullying around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. It is a great shame that there is not more time to debate it.”
As Tory MP Stewart Jackson attempted to intervene, a furious Ms Lucas hit back: “There is absolutely no way I am giving way to Government Members, who have spent so many hours filibustering a perfectly serious Bill. There is no way I am going to give way.”
Speaking quickly, Ms Lucas added: “A Terrence Higgins Trust report, which involved a survey of 900 young people aged 16 to 24, found that SRE is inadequate or absent in many schools.
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“Some 99% of the young people surveyed thought that SRE should be mandatory in all schools and more than 60% received SRE just once a year or less. Three quarters were not taught about consent and half the young people surveyed rated the SRE that they received in school as either poor or terrible.”
The time ran out for the debate before Ms Lucas had even finished her opening speech.
Taking to Twitter, she wrote: “I can’t be quiet about this anymore. The #Tories are filibustering my #PSHEBill by endlessly debating a Bill no-one disagrees with. No opposition to [the shipping] bill being debated (I support it), so no need for further debate. Tories time-wasting.”
She added: “To young people looking at #Parliament today: I’m sorry. Some of us want to talk about your education. Others simply don’t care.”
The filibuster comes just weeks after a separate Labour-led amendment to make LGBT-inclusive sex ed mandatory was blocked by Tory MPs in a committee vote, before even reaching the floor of the Commons.
But Conservative MP and former Culture Secretary Maria Miller, the chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, is not giving up on the issue – launching a campaign to pressure the government last week.
She said:”Children are clear they want SRE to be compulsory and are calling for the Government to help make that happen.
“Cyberbullying, online abuse and sexual harassment in schools are all part of teenage life in Britain today. Children are asking Government to put compulsory SRE in place to help them cope better and to feel safer.
“Leading charities such as Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau, Plan International UK, Terrence Higgins Trust and The Children’s Society are all supporting this important call for action to make SRE compulsory for all school age children.”