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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 16:01 GMT
Gay age of consent 'will be lowered'
Gay protestor
Bill could be steamrollered into law
The Leader of the Lords Baroness Jay has pledged the government will lower the gay age of consent "one way or another".

Peers look set to clash with ministers on the issue next week.

My colleagues and I still think it is wrong in principle

Baroness Young
It will be the third time the Lords have been asked to support the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill.

They have thrown it out twice before, but the government re-introduced the bill in the spring when it was given a second reading.

Now, however, it could be steamrollered into law under the Parliament Act procedure.

The bill is strongly opposed by family values campaigner Baroness Young, who with other Tory front benchers has vowed to fight the move.

Need protection

She has tabled a raft of amendments to the government's plans because she says most recent opinion polls show the majority of the public believe young people at the age of 16 are still children in law and need protection.

Her amendments are due to be debated during the bill's committee stage next Monday.

But Lady Jay told a Westminster news conference: "This will become law by one way or the other by the end of this session.

"The bottom line is as it was on the European Elections Bill, if it gets down to the point where we need to use the Parliament Act, it will be on the bill as it left the Commons."

Government Chief Whip Lord Carter added: "It's under the Parliament Act and has been certified by the Speaker... it's the bill which left the Commons the first time round"

Issue of conscience

Peers will be given a free vote. But the issue has previously proved highly controversial in the Upper House and the Lords have also twice crushed the Government's bid to repeal Section 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities - most recently last July.

Lady Young urged peers to "once again speak up for the overwhelming majority of people of this country, especially parents who are very worried".

She said: "This is the third attempt by the government to lower the age of consent. My colleagues and I still think this it is wrong in principle, particularly as it includes legalising the buggery of girls at 16 for the first time.

"It is absolutely deplorable that the government intends to use the Parliament Acts on this bill.

"The issue is one of conscience. It was not in the Labour Party Manifesto, it has been the subject of a free vote in Parliament on two previous occasions and opposition has come from all parts of the House of Lords, all sectors of society and all the major religions."

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See also:

12 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Stand-off over gay sex bill
10 Feb 00 | UK Politics
MPs back gay sex at 16
16 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Gay age of consent set to become 16
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