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The BBC's Brian Walker
"For a campaign by genteel grandparents, the language was sometimes painfully explicit"
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Baroness Young
"I think it would be quite wrong use of the parliament act."
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Lord Alli
"The public want this change."
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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 07:24 GMT
Gay consent voted down by peers
Baroness young in the House of Lords
Baroness Young has led the fight against new laws
Ministers are considering their next move after peers voted down proposals to reduce the legal age of consent for full gay sex to 16.

The House of Lords voted against the measure by 205 votes to 144, a majority of 61.

By keeping the age of buggery at 18, we protect young 16-year-olds from the most dangerous of sexual practices

Baroness Young

It is the third time peers have defeated the government on the issue, but ministers have already promised the measure will become law "one way or another".

They could use the Parliament Act to force it onto the statute book, and a spokesman for the Home Office said: "The Bill is subject to a free vote and has been previously overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Commons."

The resistance to the proposal was led by the Conservative peer Baroness Young who told the Lords that if the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill was passed unchanged it would make anal sex legal for 16-year-olds.

Speaking after the vote she said: "The Parliament Act was intended for matters of great national constitutional importance, not for gay rights."

Health risks

During the Lords debate on the Bill Lady Young said if passed it would see the young confronted with health risks such as Aids. She also said it would make anal sex legal for young women for the first time.

But the government challenged Lady Young's argument's with Lord Falconer saying her amendments "would have the reverse effect" and would not help protect the health of young people.

But Lady Young said that people who had experienced anal sex were disqualified from giving blood and that the practice was highly risky.

Detailing the main points of her amendment to the Bill she told peers: "Sixteen-year-olds are children in law.

"By keeping the age of buggery at 18, we protect young 16-year-olds from the most dangerous of sexual practices, mainly anal sex."

'Shabby compromise'

Labour peer Lord Davies gave Lady Young his support and said: "We would be neglecting our duty if we ignored these dangers.

"These [Lady Young's] amendments recognise that homosexual relationships will be legally permitted at the age of 16 for both boys and girls, short of buggery, short of permitting anal intercourse.

"Some will say it is a shabby compromise. But I don't accept these things and I believe, what is being proposed can be accepted by this government."

It is a case of fairness and justice

Lord Alli
But there is little chance of ministers changing their mind on the issue, as they have already promised to push it through by the end of this parliamentary session, whatever peers decide.

Making the case for reform the Labour peer Lord Alli said: "We are not asking for you to approve of homosexuality or homosexual acts.

"I am not even asking you to understand why they happen. What I am asking you to do is to remove the penalty and weight of the law from those young men aged 16 and 17, who consent to have sex with other men."

The Labour peer, the only openly gay member of the House of Lords, argued that matters like the one before the House should be decided by the generations involved and not by grandmotherly figures like Baroness Young, however well intentioned.

Reacting to the news the gay rights group Stonewall urged the government to press on with its planned changes to the law.

Executive director Angela Mason said: "An equal age of consent is just and fair. The House of Commons and the majority of professional medical, legal and childcare opinion support it.

"Baroness Young and her supporters have had their day. She must now accept the will of the elected House."

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See also:

03 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Young backs 'ideal' families
05 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Sing if you're glad to be Tory
02 Aug 00 | UK
Compassion v conservatism
02 Aug 00 | UK
Ivan Massow: Gay abandon
25 Sep 00 | Labour
Section 28 'back on the agenda'
26 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blueprint for sex law reforms
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