Gay sex Bill will survive Lords

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The Independent Online
THE AGE of consent for homosexuals will be lowered to 16 by the end of next year even if the House of Lords tonight votes against the move.

Opponents of the change hope to vote down the second reading of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill in what is likely to be one of the Lords' last serious confrontations with the Government before hereditary peers are abolished.

However, the Government made clear yesterday that even if it lost the vote, it would invoke the Parliament Act to reintroduce the legislation in the next Queen's Speech. The Bill, which equalises the sexual age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, would be brought back before the Commons next January and made law by September or October 2000 at the latest.

"We are determined to use the Parliament Act to ensure that it comes back next session," a spokeswoman for Baroness Jay of Paddington, Leader of the Lords, confirmed.

MPs have already voted overwhelmingly for the Bill, which is subject to a free vote as the issue is considered a matter of personal conscience.

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