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("(1) In the Sexual Offences Act 1956, in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 16 (indecency between men etc.) of Schedule 2 (punishments etc.), for the word "eighteen" there shall be substituted the word "sixteen".
(2) In the Sexual Offences Act 1967--
(a) in subsection (1) of section 1 (amendment of law relating to homosexual acts in private), for the words "a homosexual act" there shall be substituted the words "an act of buggery in private with another man or commission of an act of buggery";
(b) after subsection (1), there shall be inserted--
"(1A) Notwithstanding any statutory or common law provision, an act of gross indecency in private with another man or commission of an act of gross indecency shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of sixteen years.";
(c) in subsection (3), after the words "subsection (1)" insert "or (1A)";
(d) in place of subsection (6), there shall be substituted--
"(6) It is hereby declared that where in any proceedings it is charged that--
(a) an act of buggery with another man or being party to the commission of such an act is an offence the prosecutor shall have the burden of proving that the act was done otherwise than in private or otherwise than with the consent of the parties or that any of the parties had not attained the age of eighteen years;
(b) an act of gross indecency with another man or being party to the commission of such an act is an offence the prosecutor shall have the burden of proving that the act was done otherwise than in private or otherwise than with the consent of the parties or that any of the parties had not attained the age of sixteen years."; and
(e) in section 8 (restriction on prosecutions), for the words "against any man" to the end of section there shall be substituted--
"(a) for the offence of buggery with another man, for attempting to commit an act of buggery, or for aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or commanding its commission where either of those men was at the time if its commission under the age of eighteen;
(b) for the offence of gross indecency with another man, for attempting to commit an act of gross indecency, or for aiding, abetting, counselling, procuring or commanding its commission where either of those men was at the time if its commission under the age of sixteen.".

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(3) In section 13 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995 (homosexual offences)--
(a) in subsection (1) for the words "a homosexual act" there shall be substituted "an act of sodomy in private by one male person with another male person or commission of an act of sodomy";
(b) after subsection (1), there shall be inserted--
"(1A) Subject to the provisions of this section, an act of gross indecency in private or shameless indecency in private by one male person with another male person or commission of such an act shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of sixteen years.";
(c) in subsection (3), after the words "subsection (1)" insert "or (1A)";
(d) in subsections (5) and (8), for the words "a homosexual act" there shall be substituted "an act of sodomy by one male person with another male person";
(e) after subsection (5), there shall be inserted--
"(5A) Subject to subsection (3) above, it shall be an offence to commit or to be party to the commission of, or to procure or attempt to procure the commission of an act of gross indecency or shameless indecency by one male person with another male person--
(a) otherwise than in private;
(b) without the consent of both parties to the act; or
(c) with a person under the age of sixteen years."; and
(f) after subsection (8), there shall be inserted--
"(8A) It shall be a defence to a charge of committing or to being party to the commission of, or to procuring or attempting to procure the commission of an act of gross indecency or shameless indecency by one male person with another male person under subsection (5A)(c) above that the person so charged being under the age of 24 who had not previously been charged with a like offence, had reasonable cause to believe that the other person was of or over the age of 16 years.".
(4) In Article 3 of the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 (homosexual acts in private)--
(a) in paragraph (1), for the words "a homosexual act in private" there shall be substituted "an act of buggery in private by a man with another man or commission of an act of buggery in private by a man with another man";
(b) after paragraph (1), there shall be inserted--
"(1A) Subject to Article 123 of the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, and notwithstanding any other statutory provision or any rule of law, an act of gross indecency in private with another man or commission of an act of gross indecency with another man shall not be an offence provided that the parties consent thereto and have attained the age of 17 years.";
(c) in paragraph (3), after the words "paragraph (1)" insert "or (1A)"; and
(d) in paragraph (5), for the words "a homosexual act" to the end there shall be substituted--
"(a) an act of buggery by a man with another man or being party to the commission of such an act is an offence the prosecutor shall have the burden of proving that the act was done otherwise than in private or otherwise

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than with the consent of the parties or that any of the parties had not attained the age of 18 years;
(b) an act of gross indecency with another man or being party to the commission of such an act is an offence the prosecutor shall have the burden of proving that the act was done otherwise than in private or otherwise than with the consent of the parties or that any of the parties had not attained the age of 17 years.".").

The noble Baroness said: I begin by saying that we would all like to welcome the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, to our debates this afternoon in his position on the Front Bench. In saying that, I hope that he will recognise, as those of us who have taken part and will take part in the ensuing debates will recognise, that the issues involved today are infinitely more important, more serious and more long-lasting than those involved in the Dome.

This is the third time round on this matter. It is a long time since Second Reading on 11th April. However, I begin by saying that my noble friend Lady Blatch, myself and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, were grateful for the opportunity to discuss our amendments on this Bill with the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General last week. I only regret that the Government do not appear to have moved at all.

Before turning to the detail of Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 and the consequential amendments, I should like to make two general points. The first is to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway. I fully understand why he tabled his amendment; he wants to keep the status quo but add further amendments on abuse of trust. I sympathise with that view. But it brings me to my second general point. We would not be in the position in which we find ourselves this afternoon if the Government had not threatened to use the Parliament Acts on this Bill and only recently repeated that threat.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 16 are a compromise. The reason why I and those who support me tabled them is that, on reading what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Williams, said at Second Reading, it is clear that the principal reason the Government want this measure is on grounds of equality. I point to col. 91 of Hansard, when the noble and learned Lord said,


    "[The Bill] will improve our law and ensure equality before the criminal law for young homosexuals".

Again, at col. 93, he said that,


    "an unequal age of consent is the mark of an intolerant society".

I am not sure that that follows, but I shall let it go now.

The first group of amendments therefore is to show that those of us who oppose this Bill in principle are willing to move to meet the argument about equality. I should like to think that the Government were prepared to consider moving as well.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 have the effect of keeping the age for buggery at 18 for both boys and girls. But they allow homosexual acts, other than anal intercourse, to be committed at 16. That therefore

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gives an equal age both at 18 and at 16. Under the present law the age at which buggery, or anal intercourse, can be committed is 18. It does not matter whether the act involves two men or a man and a woman. It is unlawful when one or both parties is under the age of 18. My amendments retain that position.

At the same time, the amendments equalise the age of consent for all other heterosexual and homosexual acts at the age of 16; again, an equal age. There are of course some important differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland to which I shall refer in a moment.

I turn to the detail of my amendment. The 1967 Act uses the term, "homosexual acts", to cover offences of both buggery and gross indecency. Amendment No. 1 uses the two offences which were created under the 1956 Act. The amendment breaks down the term, "homosexual acts", into its two constituent parts. Under new subsections (1) and (2), which deal with England and Wales, buggery is kept at 18 for boys and girls, while other homosexual acts are permitted at 16. The relevant amendments are made to the 1956 and 1967 Acts; subsection (1) relates to penalties; both subsections (1) and (2) relate to other homosexual acts.

Perhaps I might turn to the position in relation to girls. In 1994, only six years ago, buggery committed on a girl aged over 18 in England and Wales was made legal. My amendments make no change to that position. The law stays as it is. However, when the Government talk of lowering the age of homosexual consent to 16, in reality they are doing much more than that. The reason is that both homosexuals and heterosexuals can commit anal intercourse. But if 1 per cent of men are homosexuals, as a government study showed, clearly they want this Bill. But girls, half the population, are directly affected by it when the minimum age for buggery goes down to 16. One must accept that the Bill is a gay rights measure which will have a profound effect on girls.

At present buggery and gross indecency are permitted at 18. Under the Bill both ages go down to 16. Under my amendment buggery stays at 18, while gross indecency goes down to 16.

However, there are two special cases. The first is Northern Ireland. Subsection (4) of Amendment No. 1 makes the same exception as the Bill. In the Province, it is still illegal for a man to commit buggery on a woman. The Bill does not change that position and neither does my amendment. The Bill allows anal intercourse at 17 in Northern Ireland for boys, presumably because the current heterosexual age of consent in the Province is 17. Subsection (4) of my amendment keeps the age of anal intercourse for boys at 18 but permits other homosexual acts at 17.

As regards Scotland, my amendment addresses the special position of girls. It extends to under-18 girls in Scotland the same protection currently available throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. My amendment raises the age at which anal intercourse can be committed on girls in Scotland from 16, as it effectively is now, to 18. In Scotland, the position for

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boys is the same as in England and Wales. Subsection (3) of my amendment permits homosexual acts at 16, except for anal intercourse which is kept at 18.

However, the position is quite different for girls. At present, girls in Scotland have much less protection than boys. In Scotland, it is a criminal offence for a man to commit anal intercourse on a boy aged under 18, but for girls the age is 16. There is no specific offence of sodomy with a girl in Scotland. The Scottish courts have held it to be a breach of the law of "shameless indecency" for a man to commit anal intercourse with a girl, but only where she is under the age of 16. There is therefore an inconsistency in the present law which is corrected by my Amendment No. 2. It creates a new offence for the protection of girls; it simply applies the protection for girls under 18 which already exists throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

To sum up, in tabling the amendment we are trying to keep the age of buggery for both boys and girls at 18 but to lower it to 16 for all other homosexual acts. That is the compromise. It goes some way to meet the case for equality because it is equal, and I hope that the Government will consider it seriously.

I turn briefly to the arguments of principle which have been well rehearsed. Our concern in tabling this and the following amendment is to protect children. Sixteen year-olds are children in law. By keeping the age of buggery at 18, we protect young 16 year-olds from the most dangerous of sexual practices; namely, anal sex. Others far better qualified than I will speak on this, but I have received a number of letters from doctors pointing out the great dangers to teenagers of this practice.

However, leaving aside what doctors may have said, two facts stand out. The first, stated by the blood transfusion service, is that no one--I repeat, no one--who has had anal sex is ever allowed to give blood. That should say something to us all about the dangers of this practice. Durex, the biggest manufacturer of condoms, states:


    "Anal intercourse is a high risk activity because of the potential for infection from STDs, including HIV transmission. Currently, there are no specific standards for the manufacture of condoms for anal sex. Current medical advice is therefore to avoid anal sex".

If there is one thing which is certain about manufacturers, it is that they will be very careful what they say on their products. They could be sued. I believe that we should accept--and again from an outside organisation--that this is a very dangerous practice which the Bill would allow to 16 year-olds.

Finally, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is not in his place on the Front Bench, but I wonder whether he will consider the reply he gave to my noble friend Lady Blatch on 6th November about the whole issue. Will he tell us the medical evidence he has for his answers when it is evident that so many eminent doctors and outside organisations disagree?

Not surprisingly, most people, particularly parents and, above all, parents with sons, do not want the age of consent for buggery lowered to 16. One of the

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arguments put forward is that somehow young people under the age of 18 will not be able to get help unless the age is lowered to 16. Indeed, the BMA is one organisation arguing that; I believe the BMA to be wrong in law. If, following the Gillick case, a girl under the age of 16 can be given contraceptive advice without parental consent, clearly homosexual men can also be given advice on safer sex. If the BMA was right about the law inhibiting safer sex advice, HIV infections among men should have gone down when the age of homosexual consent was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994. However, quite the opposite has happened. Those are serious points.

Finally, I hope that the age of consent will not be lowered. We have seen the notorious video from Avon health authority and its accompanying booklet, which is full of illustrations, containing advice to young people to try out sex with boys or girls and see who they feel most comfortable with. That seems to me the most dreadful piece of advice to be giving to young people under any circumstances. Furthermore, I was astonished to read a report in last week's newspaper of a free trip, a weekend break, organised by the Healthy Gay Life Project and funded by the Birmingham health authority at £1,000. It was designed for people who are either homosexual or confused about their sexuality. It was for those aged between 10 and 18. It was called off, I may say, because of a public outcry!

Those are not just idle remarks made by me or my colleagues. I would not have gone through what we have gone through on this issue if I were not deeply concerned to protect children. We in this Chamber have a duty to continue to do so and I hope very much that the Committee will support me and my colleagues in these amendments. I beg to move.


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