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Sunday, July 26, 1998 Published at 04:20 GMT 05:20 UK

UK Politics

Gay rights struggle continues

Ann Keen: talks with Jack Straw continue

Supporters of lowering the gay age of consent have vowed to fight on after last week's House of Lords defeat for the Crime and Disorder Bill containing the provision.

The BBC's Claudia Milne: 'Mr Straw will be under pressure from Labour backbenchers'
The Labour backbencher who tabled the amendment, Ann Keen, says she has not agreed to withdraw it when the bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday.

The bill must receive Royal assent by the end of the parliamentary term on Friday if it is to become law.

Decision time

On Friday Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the government did not want to lose the bill.

BBC Political Correspondent Carolyn Quinn: They are trying to find way through the impasse
It is thought, therefore, he will preserve the bill without the age of consent amendment and push through the issue in another way, perhaps next year.

Ann Keen says talks with Jack Straw have continued over the weekend and that she will meet him at the Home Office on Monday.

Mr Straw is likely to be asked to give his view when he appears on BBC One's Breakfast With Frost on Sunday.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's views will also be aired in a pre-recorded interview on the programme.

An NOP poll carried out on Friday for the Express newspaper suggests that only 26% of the British public now thinks the gay age of consent should be lowered.

Support for change waning

When the same question was put in October 1997, 35% agreed.

While nearly half of under-24s appear to favour a change in the law, only 11% of over-65s agree.

Ann Keen told reporters she was not surprised at the change. She said that the claims made in the House of Lords debate were "outrageous, offensive and inaccurate".

"No wonder people are going around saying, 'my goodness'."

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