Letter: Major must not fudge gay consent

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Sir: If John Major wants to demonstrate that 'back to basics' isn't a crusade about personal morality, then he should publicly support the amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill that reduces the age of consent for gay men to 16, and encourage his party to do likewise.

Merely to reduce the age of consent to 18 would be a disastrous fudge both for the Government and for young gay men. Such a compromise would please no one greatly, and would make the Conservative Party seem indecisive at a time when clear direction is needed. The issue would not be settled, and so would have to be reviewed again, taking up further parliamentary time in the future. Gay men between the ages 16 and 18 would continue to be denied education in safer sex, and more prosecutions would result for crimes that involve no victim and have no parallel for heterosexuals.

The fear that the Tories would lose votes to the opposition on this issue is groundless, since the Labour and Liberal parties are far more in support of an equal age of consent. The Prime Minister would only gain respect and support from many people who feel alienated by moral preaching.

Equalising the age of consent for all would allow the police to get back to the basics of catching real criminals. Young gay men would be granted the individual responsibility that the Government so strongly commends. If Mr Major is serious about creating a country 'at ease with itself' then he must be prepared to change outmoded laws that encourage discrimination against a significant part of the population.

Yours sincerely,