Age of consent debate rejected

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The party leadership has refused a full-scale debate today on lowering the age of consent for homosexuals to 16, and giving 16-year-olds the right to vote and stand as parliamentary candidates.

Instead, the proposals from its youth organisation will be considered by a working party which will report back to next year's conference.

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' community affairs spokesman, said that the proposals were "not yet ready" to be debated by the whole party.

The suggestions about reducing the age of consent - for which the Liberal Democrats voted in last year's Commons debate - and political rights form part of a programme of wide ranging policy on employment, benefits aimed at young people and at reducing their alienation from the political process.

t The Trades Union Congress yesterday chose the Liberal Democrat party conference to launch a new policy on training that would make good employers exempt from the statutory training levy that the TUC has supported in the past.

John Monk, TUC general secretary, used a fringe meeting to launch a report, entitled Funding Lifelong Learning, as a clear signal that the TUC is prepared to work with all parties, and would not just seek to maintain its traditional links with Labour.

The TUC's proposals would give everyone a new legal right to a minimum of five days training a year, funded by a statutory levy raised through national insurance contributions.