Sex education classes should teach pupils about consent, says Cameron

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Indy Politics

Sex education classes should teach children that "no" means "no", David Cameron will say today as he launches proposals for an overhaul of the law on sexual violence.

He will condemn low conviction rates and argue that only 15 out of every 1,000 rape victims see justice done in the courts. The party's attempt to again portray itself as tough on crime came after it emerged that the disgraced former minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed for perjury, had been asked to chair a task force on prison reform reporting to former leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Cameron will call for the concept of consent to be taught to children from the age of 11 as part of school sex education lessons and demand a review of sentencing policy to ensure that punishment for rape fits the crime.

He will use a speech to the Conservative women's conference to call for an overhaul of funding for rape crisis centres to ensure victims can be guaranteed help and treatment. The Tory leader will highlight figures showing at least three quarters of rapes are never reported, while only 5.7 per cent of those reported result in a conviction.

Mr Cameron will say: "We have a situation where rapists think they can get away with it, while victims fear not being believed and wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process."

The party will publish plans to tighten national curriculum rules so all secondary school pupils are taught about the idea of consent as a compulsory part of their sex education.

Mr Cameron will condemn the "moral collapse" that leads some young people to believe it is acceptable to force women to have sex.

He will declare: "That must mean teaching young people about consent: that 'no' means 'no'. At the moment, this is not even compulsory in the sex education curriculum. This has to change – and it will change with a Conservative government. This will be an important step towards ... helping tackle one of the root causes of rape and sexual violence."

Guidelines for schools say sex education classes should include "learning the value of respect, love and care" and "learning how to recognise and avoid exploitation and abuse".

But Conservatives say the guidelines should be tightened to include the concept of consent. The lessons could be given to children as young as 11, although senior party figures say heads could choose how and when the lessons are given.

Yesterday, Tory headquarters played down Mr Aitken's appointment, insisting he had not been given a party job. The 65-year-old was jailed for 18 months in 1999 after lying in a libel action against The Guardian over allegations that a Saudi businessman had paid for him to stay at the Paris Ritz – in breach of ministerial rules.

He will report to the Centre for Social Justice, a think-tank that advises Mr Cameron. The Labour whip Tom Watson said: "This is a return to the disgraced, scandal-ridden Tory past.

"David Cameron should go all the way, bring in Jeffrey Archer to run a truth and reconciliation committee, draft Neil Hamilton in to advise him on parliamentary modernisation and scrutiny and bring in Shirley Porter to overhaul his housing policy."

Yesterday Mr Aitken told Sky News: "My prison sentence was a painful experience but I learnt a tremendous amount. Having had a worm's eye view in my life of prison ... maybe I will be able to bring some things to this group of experts that I hope will be able to come up with some new ideas."