Letter: Gay consent and political fudge

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is no surprise that the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, has come out in favour of an age of consent of 18 for gay sex (report, 25 January). But I hope this will not be seen as a 'lead' for other Tory MPs to follow. Mr Howard is attempting to appease the anti-gay lobby on his party's right wing, at the expense, regrettably, of both principle and common sense.

Eighteen is not a 'compromise', and should Parliament choose to enact it this will become clear - not least because the gay community will campaign for the issue to be returned to the Commons for a further vote, and will continue to do so until the goal of equality is achieved.

It is possible that next year, the European Court of Human Rights will ask Britain to equalise the consent age. Mr Howard should ask himself, before refusing to support or abstain on the question of 16, whether or not it would do the Government great credit to resolve this issue now by placing principle and individual rights above short- term considerations.

Yours faithfully,



London, W1

25 January