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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK

UK Politics

Rethink for gay consent age

The government has pledged to override the Lords

The UK Government is to try again to lower the age of consent for gay men to 16.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced that the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill will be reintroduced in the Queen's Speech, which will open the next session of Parliament in November.

[ image: The issue of gay rights has provoked angry protests in the past]
The issue of gay rights has provoked angry protests in the past
If the Bill is approved, the age of consent for male homosexuals will be equalised with that for hetrosexuals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish Parliament will be able to make a decision based on the ruling.

In Northern Ireland, the age of consent is 17.

The House of Lords has twice voted against the proposals by large majorities. The latest, in April sparked off criticism by gay rights groups and a number of health organisations.

Mr Straw has also pledged to invoke the Parliament Act to override the Lords if necessary.

The government is under a legal obligation to lower the age of consent following a case brought to the European Court of Human Rights.

The gay rights group Stonewall welcomed the government's announcement that it will use the acts to secure the passage of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill through Parliament.

Protecting vulnerable children

Angela Mason, executive director of Stonewall, said: "The bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho was a terrible reminder of the prejudice against lesbians and gays that still exists in our society."

"This bill challenges that prejudice and provides equal treatment and equal protection for all young people, women and men, gay and straight."

Another aim is to create an offence of abuse of trust, designed to protect the most vulnerable children and young people.

This would mean it would be an offence for a person aged over 18 to have sexual intercourse or engage in any other sexual activity with a person under that age, if the older person is in a position of trust.

If the House of Lords bill becomes law, most hereditary peers will no longer be sitting when the measure reaches the Lords. But that will not guarantee it will be passed.

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Internet Links

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill


Stonewall's Age of Consent web site

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