Lib Dem peer urges all MPs to be given free vote on sex education bill
A bill to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education a statutory requirement should be a free vote for all MPs, says Baroness Barker.
The Liberal Democrat peer has welcomed last week’s announcement by Lib Dem Schools Minister David Laws that statutory PSHE will form a Lib Dem manifesto pledge.
Baroness Barker told PinkNews.co.uk: “I have always believed that it is the duty of adults to ensure that children and young people are able to deal with sex and personal relationships with confidence.
“To give children and young people the necessary knowledge to protect their own health, and the wellbeing of those whom they care about, is a responsibility we should not shirk.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas has urged Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to introduce statutory PSHE in a Private Members’ Bill.
It will receive its second reading on 24 October.
Baroness Barker said she hoped the government would allow Conservative and Lib Dem MPs an un-whipped vote for the bill.
She told PinkNews.co.uk: “It is good to see the growing number of MPs, from all parties, who realise that keeping children in ignorance is to put them at risk.
“The government should appreciate that the willingness of MPs to back compulsory PSHE lessons has come about after long and careful consideration.
“Therefore I hope that, when the time comes, all MPs will be allowed a free vote.”
Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, has also thrown his weight behind the bill.
“Ensuring that young adults are well prepared to take the choices they face within their person relationships should be seen as important,” Mr Gilbert told PinkNews.co.uk.
“We know that the modern world presents our young people with increasingly difficult choices and we do them a real disservice if we ignore the reality of life growing up today.
“Relationship education should be seen as the ‘fourth r’ and I welcome the moves to cement it into the curriculum.”
The Lib Dems and the Conservatives twice voted against measures for statutory sex and relationships education (SRE) last year.
The leader of the Conservative Party remains opposed to statutory PSHE.
However, several Tory parliamentarians, including the Conservative peer Lord Fowler, MP Michael Fabricant, and Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Select Committee, have expressed their support for the policy in the past week.
Labour has already promised to make SRE statutory if it wins the 2015 general election.
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