Cabinet agrees to lower age of gay sex to 16

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE CABINET yesterday agreed to more than a dozen bills to be announced in the Queen's Speech, including a Bill to lower the age of consent for gays to 16 with protection for children from abuse by authority figures such as social workers and teachers.

Joe Ashon, the Labour MP, last night demanded that safeguards should still make it a criminal offence for adults in positions of responsibility to have sex with those under 18.

The Government will delay implementation of an election pledge on gay rights in schools.

It is postponing the repeal of Clause 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act banning the promotion of homosexual "propa- ganda" until next year. Downing Street said it would still go ahead but there were no guarantees it will be repealed before the election. The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have a commitment and that remains to repeal Clause 28 as soon as a suitable legislative opportunity arises." Ministers feared disruption of the Government's business by Tory peers opposed to the repeal and decided to wait until the hereditary peerage is abolished before proceeding.

The reform of the House of Lords will be the centrepiece of a legislative package described by the Government as "ambitious", to be unveiled on 24 November by the Queen in a scaled-down ceremony in the Lords. There had been suspicions among some Labour MPs the Government had got cold feet over gay law reform after the row over the resignation of Ron Davies.

Other bills include:

Criminal justice: Greater protection for rape victims, witness protection, abolition of jury trial in 25 per cent of cases, and youth justice reforms.

Asylum: Allowing the Home Office to take responsibility from the social security department for running asylum budgets, but de facto amnesty for 30,000 long-term applicants.

London mayor: Creation of elected mayor and Greater London Authority.

Local government: Directly elected mayors outside London, Sunday voting in malls, powers to appoint teams to tackle failing councils.

NHS reform: Replaces "fundholding" family doctors with primary care groups of GPs to commission care for patients from hospitals.

Fairness at work: Restores union recognition rights in workplace on majority vote providing 40 per cent of those eligible vote.

Justice: To give solicitors and staff of Crown Prosecution Service chance to break barristers' monopoly.

Electronic commerce: Liberalising trading on the Interment, making payment without credit cards.

Welfare: Tighter rules on disability pensions.

Comments