Justice Minister calls on Lib Dem MPs to vote for sex education bill

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes says a bill to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education statutory will receive the support of Liberal Democrat MPs.

The Lib Dem Minister has thrown his weight behind a Private Members’ Bill, tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas, requiring the government to make PSHE a statutory requirement for schools.

The bill will receive its second reading on Friday 24 October.

When asked if the bill would be a free vote for MPs, Mr Hughes told PinkNews.co.uk: “Private Members’ Bills are non-party bills, and they’re not subject to the same whipping and management” as other pieces of legislation.

The Justice Minister added: “The Caroline Lucas bill is in that category and therefore we will all be free to vote on that bill in a way that we’re not able to vote on other government business as there are more restrictions.”

Mr Hughes said he expected that Lib Dem MPs would vote in favour of the bill next month.

“I’m not aware that there is anybody in the parliamentary party that doesn’t think this is a good thing.

“I expect our colleagues to vote for it unless they had a very good reason for not doing so.”

The MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark continued: “The logic is that when Caroline’s bill comes to be debated and voted on, I’d assume my colleagues who were there on the day would support her”.

The senior Lib Dem said: “Our view has always been that Private Members’ Bills should be a free vote for all parties. If that happens – and that’s what should happen – I think we’ll manage to persuade government not to stand in the way and that’s a good thing the coalition has done, we have not been blocking private members’ legislation, and I think there’s a good chance of progress.”

Mr Hughes stressed that it was important to make sure the bill would not run out of parliamentary time – and that enough MPs would be in the Commons on the Friday to support the bill.

Last Tuesday, in a major policy shift, the Liberal Democrats announced they would make PSHE compulsory in all state-funded schools, as part of a manifesto pledge.

The Lib Dems and the Conservatives twice voted against measures for statutory sex and relationships education (SRE) last year.

The leadership 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.