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Mr. Leigh: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that you and Mr. Deputy Speaker have a difficult task organising debates, but it must be placed on the record that there have been 15 speeches, and only two or three have given the clear case against gay sex at 16.

Madam Speaker: Order. If the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member has a complaint, the Order Paper is available. They should put an early-day motion on the Order Paper criticising me for my selection. I shall see that it is debated without delay.

Sir Peter Lloyd: I hope that I can finish my speech first.

Whatever age is selected, it will be too low for some young people and too high for others. There must be clarity in the law, and we have to settle on the age or ages that seem to provide maximum protection with the minimum harmful side effects.

I do not accept that, simply because 16 is the age of consent for heterosexual relationships, it must be the same for homosexual activity, but the distinguishing features are not so great as many of those who oppose the new clause think them to be. Teenage girls become pregnant, with devastating effects on their lives. That would argue a higher age of consent for girls, but, whatever the logic, raising it would surely not reduce their sexual activity at all. Indeed, it would only bring the law into contempt and make it harder for young girls, to obtain advice and guidance.

Similarly, homosexual activity carries considerable health risks, which again suggests a higher age than 16, but--again--if a young person is so inclined, the law is

22 Jun 1998 : Column 804

less likely to stop him from starting that activity than it isto discourage him from seeking medical and moral advice. It is generally accepted that girls mature physically earlier than boys, and so they do, but that is a double-edged argument. If physical maturity is to be the determining point, the age of consent for girls at least would have to go down below 16.

Some of my hon. Friends say, "Ah"--particularly my female hon. Friends, I find--"the real point is that girls are so much more psychologically mature at 16 than boys." I am unconvinced of that--not as unconvinced as I was when I was 16, but I see no particular reason to think that boys are in much greater danger from older men than girls are.

It is said that boys can be sexually very ambivalent in their teens and thus particularly vulnerable to seduction by older men, which can make them permanently homosexual when they might otherwise have worked through their doubts and proclivities to a normal homosexual orientation, as most people would regard it. [Hon. Members: "Heterosexual."] A normal heterosexual orientation. I am grateful. I will not have to tamper with Hansard.

10.15 pm

The evidence seems to be that those who are not homosexually inclined find homosexual activity repugnant; that those who are generally know it well before they are 16; and that those who are confused and ambivalent are not going to be fixated for life, one way or another, according to the nature of their sexual experience, if any, at the age of 16 or 17. Indeed, for those going through a temporary phase, the knowledge that they are doing so under the threat of prosecution--of their partner, if not of themselves--cannot be conducive to a satisfactory resolution of their uncertainties.

If the reply is that 16 and 17-year-olds are never prosecuted in practice--and that the law is just to ensure that older, exploitative partners can be--there are better and more honest ways of doing so, as provided by the amendments to new clause 1 and new clause 8, tabled by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, which I hope will be extended in the House of Lords.

The age of consent properly seeks to protect children before they reach an age where they themselves can choose to be sexually active. Both sexes are now reaching that point earlier, largely because of earlier physical maturation. It makes no sense at all to extend that age of consent far beyond the point where many have, rightly or wrongly, started to engage in sexual relationships of their own volition--the majority heterosexual, the minority homosexual.

What is needed is a law that ensures that the young of both sexes are not drawn into relationships of either kind by older people exploiting positions of trust and influence. That is why I support amendment (a). The Government are unhappy with the wording, so let them put it right--it is a narrow point--in the House of Lords. I hope that they find a set of words that will ensure that the measure also covers those who organise or financially benefit--

It being six and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, Madam Speaker, pursuant to the Order [16 June] and the Resolution[18 June], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

22 Jun 1998 : Column 805

The House divided: Ayes 336, Noes 129.

Division No. 311
[10.19 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Berry, Roger
Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brady, Graham
Brake, Tom
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Cable, Dr Vincent
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
Curry, Rt Hon David
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Dawson, Hilton
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Duncan, Alan
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fabricant, Michael
Fatchett, Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Grant, Bernie
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLeish, Henry
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prior, David
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Wallace, James
Ward, Ms Claire
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Neil Gerrard and
Mrs. Eleanor Laing.


Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Bermingham, Gerald
Blunt, Crispin
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Butterfill, John
Cann, Jamie
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Dalyell, Tam
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Drew, David
Duncan Smith, Iain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Mudie, George
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Powell, Sir Raymond
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan
Rowlands, Ted
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Wardle, Charles
Wareing, Robert N
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Edward Leigh and
Dr. Julian Lewis.

Question accordingly agreed to.

22 Jun 1998 : Column 808

Clause read a Second time.

Madam Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Amendment proposed to the proposed new clause: (a), in line 2, after 'sixteen', insert

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