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Mr. Clappison rose--

Mr. Boateng: Let me finish the point. It is our view that, in those circumstances and whatever the age of the older party--older age does not necessarily bring with it a knowledge of the age of the younger party--it would be wrong for him not to have that defence available. He has to make use of that defence and to bring himself within it, but we think it right that the defence should be available to such individuals, regardless of their age, that, in certain circumstances, the older individual would not be expected to know the age of the younger. That is the distinction, so I do not accept that we have got ourselves into the sort of difficulty that the hon. Gentleman describes--

Mr. Clappison: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Boateng: No, the hon. Gentleman has made his point and I intend to wind up the debate.

Dr. Julian Lewis: I am enjoying it.

Mr. Boateng: I am glad. I have not finished yet, so the hon. Gentleman may enjoy it some more.

In those circumstances, I do not believe that we have misdirected ourselves in relation to that defence. As to new clauses 2 and 3--which the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon urged us to accept--there is no limit to those under 25 for the first charge in England and Wales. It is a general defence, and the provisions are very wide and would make prosecution substantially more difficult. That is why we are unable to accept it. The hon. Member for Hertsmere found new clause 3 acceptable in the context of Northern Ireland. That is a matter for him, and hon. Members will make up their own minds. The reasons that we have given for opposing new clauses 2 and 3 stand.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon urged upon us the point about equality. The review will take account of several factors, including that issue. We have deliberately constructed a review process that is about expertise and a range of experiences and views--some of which are disparate. We have done that because we do not wish to circumscribe the basis upon which the review body approaches its task. It will perform its task within the year and produce proposals. It is right that those proposals should be subject to wide debate and discussion--we make absolutely no apology for that.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon has latched on to the notion that this is somehow an attempt by the Government to kick the issue into the long grass. That could not be further from the truth. Does he seriously expect us to conduct a rational debate about sexual offences issues--involving deeply personal and sensitive topics, including matters of conscience--without allowing proper, open consultation? That would be quite wrong, and we do not intend to go down that path. I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman, or the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), any assurances about the outcome, save to say that we have made it clear that the

1 Mar 1999 : Column 773

review must take into account the need to comply with the European convention on human rights and our treaty obligations thereunder. That will inform the outcome of the review's deliberations, the wider debate and, in due course, the House.

Dr. Harris rose--

Mr. Boateng: I will not give way: the hon. Gentleman has had more than enough time to explore his points. [Hon. Members: "Far too much."] The hon. Gentleman has added enormously to the gaiety of nations, but I do not intend to allow him any more time to speak on this issue.

As for the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), there must be something in the water. I struggled with his contribution, but I was not persuaded by it. There will be a free vote in the House on this matter, and I hope that hon. Members will agree to new clause 4 and oppose new clauses 2 and 3. In light of my remarks, I hope that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon will not push the matter to a vote.

Dr. Harris rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Is the Minister giving way?

Mr. Boateng: I have finished.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 64.

Division No. 78
[5.39 pm


AYES


Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blears, Ms Hazel
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Brake, Tom
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Buck, Ms Karen
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Curry, Rt Hon David
Dafis, Cynog
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fatchett, Rt Hon Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.


NOES


Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Butterfill, John
Cann, Jamie
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fraser, Christopher
Garnier, Edward
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Loughton, Tim
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Moss, Malcolm
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Page, Richard
Pollard, Kerry
Powell, Sir Raymond
Randall, John
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Syms, Robert
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Wilkinson, John
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Desmond Swayne and
Dr. Julian Lewis.

Question accordingly agreed to.

1 Mar 1999 : Column 775

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.


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