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Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 18:58 GMT
Gay consent bill to become law
Gay couple
Plans to lower the gay age of consent have been controversial
The controversial bill to lower the gay age of consent from 18 to 16 is to become law next week.

The government is to steamroll the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill onto the statute books by invoking the Parliament Act.

The law will make it legal for 16 and 17 year-olds to have anal sex.

The Bill has been thrown out of the Lords on three occasions and opponents have reacted angrily to the news that it is to become law.

This is a matter of great concern to a lot of people in this House, in the Commons and outside

Baroness Young
The government's decision means MPs will not be asked to vote on amendments to the Bill put forward by peers last week.

Former Tory minister Baroness Young, who spearheaded the successful defence of Section 28 banning the intentional "promotion" of homosexuality by councils in England and Wales, expressed concern at the decision.

"This is a matter of great concern to a lot of people in this House, in the Commons and outside. This is a very serious issue," she said.

'Fundamental incompatibility'

Leader of the Lords, Baroness Jay of Paddington said the government had made the decision on the grounds that the issue had been discussed enough.

"I think that that decision has been made on the basis that, clearly, this is a subject that has been discussed very much regularly between the two Houses - I believe, on three separate occasions."

She said discussions on different versions of the Bill had totalled 48 hours.

Lady Jay added: "The Government have taken the view that there has been very ample opportunity for the discussion of these issues in both Houses, and what seems to have been demonstrated is a fundamental incompatibility.

"The position, as is always the case, is that the elected House must be pre-eminent."

'Indignation across the country'

Former Tory Lords leader Lord Waddington attacked the decision.

There has been very ample opportunity for the discussion of these issues in both Houses

Baroness Jay
"Do you not realise the indignation that will be felt in the country that the Parliament Acts should be used to railroad through a Bill that does nothing to help young people but merely grants a licence to older people to abuse them?"

Many peers criticised the decision to put the Bill on the statute books before MPs had been given an opportunity to consider the Lords' amendments.

But Lady Jay said a lack of parliamentary time meant the Commons was not in a position to examine peers' amendments.

However, she added that Home Secretary Jack Straw would allow "some of the considerations" that had been raised in Lords' amendments to be incorporated in the legislation.

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See also:

14 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Gay consent voted down by peers
09 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Gay age of consent 'will be lowered'
08 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Widdecombe: Gay lifestyle 'not equal'
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Ministers back down on gay ban
26 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Gay ban must go: Blair
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