Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 20:34 GMT
Law change on gay sex
Law will be part of current bill
Home Secretary Jack Straw has said that boys under 16 will no longer be seen as criminals for having consensual gay sex with older men.
Mr Straw told the Commons that the government would amend the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill currently going through Parliament.
He said: "It's been found unacceptable by most MPs that the under-16s end up, not as a victim, but as someone who is criminalised if he has engaged in a homosexual act where the other party is over 16."
The move was inspired by Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris, who pointed out that the current law could "criminalise someone who is a victim".
But Tory home affairs spokesman James Clappison urged caution.
He said: "Any move like this has to go hand in hand with a vigorous application of the law.
"We need to do all we can to protect those under 18, particularly from the attentions of people who are aged over 21."
The bill currently going through Parliament will also lower the gay age of consent from 18 to 16, bringing the UK into line with many European countries.
It is the second time the issue has come before Parliament since Labour came to power after a similar bill was blocked by the Lords last summer.
Peers are still threatening to block the bill when it comes before them in a few weeks time.
But even if the Lords do throw the bill out the government is committed to forcing it into law under the Parliament Act.
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