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Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill

Volume 326: debated on Monday 1 March 1999

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Amendment made: No. 9, in line 1, after 'which' insert

', and to make provision with respect to the circumstances in which,'.—[Mr. Boateng.]
Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. Boateng.]

6.46 pm

I have sat through many of the debates on this subject from 1994 through to today. I have not spoken at all on the Bill because I have been keen to understand the reasoning behind it. The Government have made a great issue of equality before the law, and they have said persistently that this is not a matter of moral judgment, but of making the law as it applies to 16-year-old girls apply to boys—the implication being that the sexual activity in those two sexes is similar. Of course, we all know that it is not, and that there are different consequences from that activity.

What we are debating tonight is a removal of protection from some of our citizens. By changing the law, we are bringing younger people into a position of risk from which the law has previously protected them. No one would pretend that any law passed in this House will prevent people from doing things that they are determined to do, but the laws that we create give a strong signal as to the way in which we hope people might behave—or, at least, they reflect the behaviour that is commonly held to be appropriate within society.

There is no doubt that the great majority of people in this country, if polled, would not take the Government's position or that of the majority in the Lobby tonight. They believe that the current legislation gives some protection—and they are right.

Even when homosexual activity between males aged 16 to 18 was illegal, in 1994, there were 300 cases of such young men with AIDS. Perhaps some of them have died. If we relax the law, it is reasonable to suppose that the number will increase. I cannot think of a law that we would change in almost any other context that would lead to an increase in a dangerous disease or practice. The new Labour party, which is so sanctimonious about smoking and diseases that are caused by people's behaviour, which it seeks to correct, would never approve of that.

The Government must have some other motivation. The Government are usually fairly canny in identifying issues that are popular with the public and exploiting them. All political parties do that to some extent. Knowing, as they must, that the great majority of people outside the Metropolitan area would not approve of the proposed alteration in the law, it is interesting to speculate as to why the Government have made such an issue of this matter.

Clearly, there is a great deal of support for the change among what might be called the chattering classes, and certainly in the media. Nobody denies that there is a disproportionate number of homosexuals in those communities. In the run-up to the general election—not only the immediate run-up, but the period since 1994—there would have been every good reason for the Labour party to want to come to terms with those people. It certainly would have received a lot of pressure from them. I believe that the Government have to some extent played up to that powerful and influential group in our society.

What is the role of the House? Surely we are here to reflect, by and large, the views of the people whom we represent; to try to express their concerns, especially when there are proposals to change the law in a way that is likely to affect them and their families; and, if possible, to remedy their grievances rather than adding to them. I put it to the House that the Bill does exactly the opposite, and that we are seeking to impose a minority view on the great mass of people with families or with concern for the care of 16-year-old young men—or boys, as I prefer to call them—and going against the will of the people. For that reason alone, I want to vote against the Bill.

We are continually told that homosexuality is a normal activity and way of life but, having looked through the debates since 1994, I have found not a single instance of an hon. Member declaring openly that that is the position that he or she is coming from. I have heard hon. Members saying that they are Christians or that they are family people with sons but that they support the change—I even heard a Labour Member saying that he was a Christian, a Catholic and a father of sons but still supported the change—but no one has opened his mouth to say that he is a homosexual and can tell us the truth about the subject.

There has been covert support for the Bill in some quarters that does less than justice either to the Government's claim that homosexuality is a natural and normal part of life for certain sections of the community, or to the electorate. It is significant that the Government and their supporters have not come clean with the electorate. There is an element of deceit in the way in which the legislation has been presented to the House.

Has the hon. Lady been asleep for the past two years? The European Court of Human Rights has ordered us to change our law. We have to do it.

The hon. Gentleman says that it is rubbish, but unfortunately life is life. We have to change the law and we are doing it. There is no hidden agenda.

I am as aware as the hon. Gentleman that there has been a debate on the issue from that perspective, and to some extent he has made a contribution to that; but that does not alter the fact that we are debating what will be domestic legislation, and we have not been entirely open and clear with the public about the motivation behind it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the European Court of Human Rights might require us to change the law, that does not mean that the change is a good one? The change could be completely wrong, so it is a shame that people of principle do not stand up and say so. Frankly, I am sick to death of hearing about the European Court.

My hon. Friend knows my views on that, and I entirely agree with everything that she says.

On the "Today" programme on 22 February, a certain gentleman named Derek Bodell, who apparently runs something called the National AIDS Trust, complained that the budget for AIDS, at £52 million, was not enough to deal with the problem; that it cost £15,000 a year to treat an AIDS patient; that 1,500 homosexual men develop AIDS every year; and that we are too complacent about the issue. He and I might not share the same form or degree of complacency. He ended his remarks by saying that there is a worrying increase in AIDS among younger men. The behaviour of homosexual men must surely affect those figures.

Several times, Conservative Members have adduced AIDS as a reason for not reducing the age of consent. All the bodies concerned with the sexual health of young gay men are unanimous in the view that the age of consent at 18 rather than 16 is a factor in increasing the number of HIV cases among young gay men and that a reduction to 16 will assist in giving proper sexual health education to 16 to 18-year-olds.

Conservative Members may not like the facts, but their comments, made in complete ignorance of them, show that they have no arguments.

The hon. Gentleman is saying that more people will come forward if their activity is legalised, but in 1994—the latest year for which I happen to have figures—300 16 to 18-year-olds with AIDS came forward. If one is that ill, one will automatically go to the doctor's surgery and get treatment for the problem. One would not simply stay at home and die in bed. That is an absurd suggestion.

To assist my hon. Friend and to counter the intervention from the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow), I can tell her that, when I served as a member of the Social Services Select Committee and we undertook an inquiry into AIDS, it was abundantly clear from the evidence that we received from many sources that the main causes of it were intravenous drug abuse and active homosexual sex. The case that my hon. Friend makes is genuine and right, and the Bill will be damaging and encourage an increase in the incidence of AIDS.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The issue is one of health. What adults do in the privacy of their homes is their business, but the Bill will affect very young people. The Government have sought to mollify people who have expressed concern by amending their original proposals, prompted by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), to protect people from certain types of predation. We hope that those people are protected, but the fact that we have to add such provisions to the Bill tells us that it is flawed.

The change in the law is not needed. There were almost no prosecutions of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 and, therefore, we do not need legislation that will send a signal that certain activities are acceptable and, in the view of the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow), safe. They are not.

The Government's purpose is not the high and mighty one of creating equality for young people. I do not believe that for a moment. They are giving a signal to a very small, but very powerful element in our society—the media—that the Government are open-minded about those activities, which are widespread in the media. The Government want to say that they condone those activities to the extent that young people aged 16 should be able to engage in such activities, unless they happen to need special protection. I have been a teacher and I know that young people of that age are immature emotionally and vulnerable. I shall not support the Bill.

I hope that the electorate, in so far as they follow what goes on in the House, will have noted from which quarter the pressure for the Bill has come. It is their 16-year-old sons who will be put in situations as depicted on certain television programmes, which have already been mentioned, on Channel 4 recently. There is active predation on young people by people who are not in a position of care and, in such cases, the young people will not be protected by the Bill.

The hon. Gentleman has made that point time and again. It is not the same for girls. We are talking about activities that can be physically dangerous, as the hon. Gentleman, who is a medical doctor, well knows, and have led to the development of AIDS.

That disease was almost unknown before the liberalisation of the laws on homosexuality. I hope that the public will remember that it was the Labour party which removed the protection from their young sons. When it comes to deciding which party is suitable to protect youngsters, I hope that people will remember this debate and which party forced the Bill through the House.

7.4 pm

It is unfortunate that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) should try to turn the issue into a party political one. When the Division records have been examined, her claim will be found to be absurd, because Members from all parties are found on both sides of the argument. Members from her party, my party and the Labour party will be found in each Lobby. To start attributing absurd motives to those who support the Bill is equally foolish. I would not do so to her. People support the Bill for a variety of motives, which they have declared openly and I shall give my views in a moment. I have never found it fruitful in politics to discuss legislation on the basis of the motives of those supporting it or opposing it: it is better to consider what its effects will be. That is what the House has sought to do in this case.

The Government have rightly brought back to the House a matter on which the House made a decision in the last Session. The House of Lords required us to think again and it is proper for the Government to bring it back to us so that we can have a free vote. It was also right that the Government brought back to us something else on which the House expressed strong views—although not majority views as it turned out—which was the need to build into the legislation provisions dealing with abuses of trust. The legislation is much better for containing those provisions. I supported the original amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) and it is good that we have managed to incorporate those principles into the Bill.

Anomalies and difficulties remain, but the first part of the Bill will remove an indefensible anomaly—that conduct involving people in the age group from 16 to 18 could be the subject of criminal proceedings for male homosexuals but not for heterosexuals or female homosexuals. My view of that point has nothing to do with my opinions as to the merits of such conduct. I am not entitled to write my views into law, unless there is an overriding principle of public protection involved. That has not been demonstrated. Indeed, the evidence is that it is better, if one believes that serious health dangers are at stake, that young people in that age group should feel no discouragement from taking medical advice at the time when they first might be drawn into such conduct. On public safety grounds, there is a strong case for the provisions in the first part of the Bill.

Several anomalies were explored in Committee; both my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) and for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) have done a lot of work on the Bill. The remaining anomalies will have to be considered carefully in the review that the Government will undertake, including the abuse of trust issue, where teachers might be involved in potential charges, and why some categories of people, who might have closer contact with children than many teachers, are not included. We will have to revisit the subject, because the Bill cannot dot all the i's and cross all the t's. It was necessary to make a fundamental change and to include abuse of trust provisions that apply to both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It is right for the Bill to be non-discriminatory, although there are elements of discrimination left, as has been mentioned by my hon. Friends. Given that the House has had the opportunity to resolve the key issues on free votes, it is right that the Bill should be voted into law.

7.9 pm

The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said one thing with which I profoundly agree—the fact that one disapproves of an activity is not a good reason to make it criminal. That is an observation that might inform more people's approach to fox hunting than perhaps it does. It is true that one may disapprove of something without thinking that it should be made the subject of the criminal law. This is the first time that I have spoken on the Bill and the first time in 20 years that I have spoken on this subject. That notwithstanding, I shall be brief.

There are parts of the Bill with which I agree. I find the provisions of clause 2 correct. We have debated whether it goes far enough: I suspect that it does not, but that can be dealt with in another place or by the review, and the Minister has been good enough to indicate that special attention will be given to the concept of people in loco parentis, and those in their charge.

However, I do not agree with clause 1. The essential argument underpinning it is that it is desirable to establish equality in the criminal law for males and females. I hope that the House will forgive a very old-fashioned remark, but I believe that it is one that has greater resonance than we care to admit. One of the curses of the age is the lack of restraint on people's sexual appetites. The truth of that contention is evident in the enormous number of teenage pregnancies and of children born out of wedlock, in the very large incidence of abortion, in the many cases of venereal disease, and so forth.

That lack of restraint is a curse that has disfigured society, and that will continue to undermine its cohesion. I am reluctant to accept as valid the argument that, because 16 is an appropriate age of consent for females, we should make it the age of consent for young men. I am willing to accept that it is not possible to increase the age of consent for young women. Whether to do so would be good or bad in an ideal world does not matter—it is not realistic in the present age.

However, the question that we are asking is whether we should reduce the age of consent for young men. Against the background of my anxiety about society's willingness to succumb to sexual appetites, I am bound to say that I am very cautious about that proposition. In the course of my life—at school, at the criminal Bar, in the House and so on—I have become aware that older men can be predatory vis-a-vis young men. That is a fact of life, and much to be regretted. The Bill significantly increases the pressure on young men, and I oppose it for that reason.

I hope that the House will forgive another old-fashioned remark. I have never wanted to persecute homosexuals. In general, I do not think that they should be treated in a discriminatory way and, when asked, I have always said so. However, I do not believe that the homosexual way of life is a wholly satisfactory existence. Further, I believe that the sexual orientation of many people is not fixed at a young age, and probably is not fixed even at 15, 16 or 17. I am very reluctant for the House to do anything that would encourage people to adopt the homosexual way of life, if otherwise they would not have done so.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) is looking at me disapprovingly, and he will no doubt draw on his experiences as a doctor. However, I have years of experience at the Bar and elsewhere to draw on, and I have seen people who I suspect have changed their sexual way of life as a result of experiences when young. On balance, I think that they have had a less full and happy life than they would have had if they had become heterosexual.

I regret the Bill. I do not think that it is desirable, and I shall not support it if it is pushed to a vote. On the whole, I think that the House ought to regret the Bill, and I am sure that most of my constituents will do so.

7.14 pm

I rise briefly to make two main points about the medical aspects of the Bill.

It is entirely wrong for Conservative Members to justify their opposition to clause 1 on medical grounds, when all the medical opinion—in the world, not just in this country—is that clause 1 is necessary to protect health. If Conservative Members want to bring health into the debate, they must recognise that the medical arguments favour reduction in the age of consent, to allow information about sexual health to get through to people who are sexually active.

I hope that I am not jumping the gun, but will the hon. Gentleman say whether he believes that the Bill when it is enacted—as it will be—will mean that figures for AIDS and sexual health among young men will be considerably better than today? What happens if they are not?

I have worked with HIV, in prevention and as a clinician, and my experience tells me that, all other things being equal, the fact that the Bill enables young people to access important information on sexual health will reduce the number of new HIV infections among young gay men. That is not just my view: it is shared by all the relevant organisations, especially the medical ones. As I have said on previous occasions, the council of the British Medical Association—not a radical organisation—was unanimous in its recommendation of a unified age of consent at 16.

In a moment. The reason that the BMA council gave was that such a change would reduce the spread of HIV among young people. Other experience shows that the criminalisation of an activity drives it underground, with the result that people cannot get the information that they need.

The same thing happened, in the Victorian era, with back-street abortions. What is needed is more education. I concede that young people—especially girls, if we are talking about abortion and teenage pregnancies—must be empowered to say no. That is a large element in sexual and health education. We will be able to do that—particularly for those of school age—only if we do not attach criminality to one type of behaviour and not to another.

Should we therefore lower the age at which it is permissible for children to purchase tobacco products so that they can have greater access to health information about the consequences of smoking?

No. I do not believe that there is anything—other than the budgets of health education authorities—to prevent health educators passing information about the dangers of tobacco on to young people at risk. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), when he was Minister, referred to scientific and expert opinion a great deal, but those who want to use health as an argument must recognise that the expert opinion supports those of us on my side of the argument.

Conservative Members are entitled to their opinion and—I do not mean the term derogatively—to their prejudices. However, without scientific opinion to back them up, they should not try to impose their views on other people.

Other arguments in favour of decriminalisation have been framed in terms of human rights. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham talked about reality, so he will know that the European Court of Human Rights—which is not a European Union institution—is about to find against this country in that respect and that the European Commission of Human Rights has instructed the Government to let the House think again. So there are judicial reasons for the proposed equalisation in the age of consent. None of the hon. Members who say that the age of 16 is too young have tabled an amendment to raise the age of consent for girls, which at least would be consistent, if unrealistic.

Finally, Conservative Members implied that most predatory older men are homosexual. Of course there are predatory men who are homosexual, and I deplore some of the storylines recently on television, just as I have serious reservations about the contents of the famous Nabokov novel that has been made into a film. However, I do not recommend book-burning on that basis. The fact is that there are more predatory men also on the look out for girls—the proportions are probably similar.

I must tell the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) that the hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) claimed not long ago that that was not so, and that, in fact, 15-year-old girls were recognised as hunting for older men and wanting relationships with them. The people who have spoken against the Bill on predation seem to want it both ways, but they cannot have it every which way. There is predation, and it should be condemned. However, it cannot be distinguished by sexuality. More sex education would give young people the power to say no.

Those without power, such as those in care homes, are entitled to the protection provided by clauses 2 to 4, and I agree with all that my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said on that. My only concern on those clauses is how wide ranging they are. They cover teachers, even those who do not have a direct educational relationship with the people with whom they are having consensual sexual relations. Disciplinary codes already exist to punish behaviour that is wrong. To bring in the criminal law seems to be going too far.

In Committee, I raised the problem of Scottish higher education institutions, at which the majority of first-year students are 17. Anyone, even a postgraduate involved in teaching, will be subject to the Bill's provisions if he has sexual relations with a 17-year-old whom he knows to be an undergraduate, even if he is not teaching that student, but is doing some teaching as a postgraduate student.

A 22-year-old and a 17-year-old—and in many cases people meet their future life partners at university—will be subject to the provisions of the Bill. Even if not prosecuted, they could be subject to worry, guilt and potential blackmail. It is strange to set apart 17-year-olds—both male and female—so that they will not be able to have relationships with their postgraduate peers. I hope that the other place will try to get rid of some of those problems.

I am sorry that the Minister is not here, as I need not have made my final point if he had allowed me to intervene even once on his closing remarks during one of our earlier debates. The point that I want to put on record is this: the Minister outlined the Government's motives for introducing the Bill. They had been forced to do so by the European Commission of Human Rights, and they would give the House a free vote on the age of consent. The welcome provision to decriminalise under-16s would provide protection for the young. There was, it seemed, no intention of recognising the other reason—equally valid in my opinion—that there is currently discrimination between heterosexuals and homosexuals. The Government rejected other amendments to equalise the law between heterosexuals and homosexuals outwith protection of children issues.

I hope that the Government will be clear about their intentions. I have spoken to many people outside the House who have felt that that was not what they understood the position of the Labour party to be. In the party's election manifesto, there was a commitment
"to end unjustifiable discrimination wherever it exists".
Yet the Government have said that seeking to provide equality in criminal legislation during this Parliament is not on their agenda. Any measures that are taken will be a side effect of child protection, which is, of course, valuable in itself.

The Government should be clear whether the gay community—and those like myself who are outside the gay community, but who feel strongly about the issue on human rights grounds—is correct in understanding the Minister to mean that there will be no wider reform in this Parliament and that the motives for this reform on under 16-year-olds did not include equality.

We shall get the Bill through the House. I hope that it passes through the House of Lords at its first attempt. The larger the majority that we can muster, the more the will of the House of Commons should prevail.

7.24 pm

I voted against the Bill on Second Reading, and my profound impression is that it has become worse as it has proceeded through the House. A leap to the Bill's detriment has been taken this afternoon by the inclusion of new clause 4.

The Bill began with the intention of reducing the age of consent for homosexual young men. Its effect will be to abolish that age of consent. A young man under 16 may explore his sexuality without any constraint of the law. He need only choose a partner over the age of 16. For any young man in that position, there will be no age of consent under the Bill.

The Bill sets out to protect young people. I believe that it puts them at much greater risk. I have no doubt that it will serve to entrap a small number of young men in a life style that is gross and unnatural. They might otherwise have led a life not blighted in that way.

Some of the correspondence that I have had from constituents on this matter has been almost apocalyptic. It has suggested that all standards are being swept away, that the consequences will be disastrous and that there will be a huge increase in homosexuality. I do not believe that that is so. We must trust to the good sense of people, in which respect the remarks of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) were instructive.

There are a number of motives behind the Bill. There are people who believe that equality before the law is the most important principle. I agree that the principle is important, but it is not the most important. There are those whose motive is to improve the health of the nation, as the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) seeks to do. He is mistaken, but his position is perfectly honourable.

There is another motive, however. There is a homosexualist agenda. The homosexual community, by its nature, is sterile, and it can survive and grow only by proselytising. There is an agenda to make it easier for that community to grow—an agenda that will be further expressed when all sorts of requests are made to get rid of section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988.

Having said that, I believe that the wisdom of the general public is rather greater than that. It is unlikely that there will be a large increase in homosexuality. Irrespective of the change that we will make to the law today, most people are still profoundly disgusted, and alarmed, by homosexuality. That will provide a powerful incentive to reduce the level of homosexuality.

Many comments have been made to me, particularly in my correspondence, about how sorry and small a number have opposed the Bill. I think that those comments are wrong. If Lot had found himself in the Division Lobby with 126 voters and two tellers—all just men—the cities of the plain would have been saved.

7.28 pm

I commend the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) who tackles issues straight on and who does not mince his words. I have not yet spoken in the debate, although I have voted against the Bill at every possible opportunity. It is fundamentally flawed, wrong and dangerous to the young men and boys about whom we are concerned.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said that it was utterly wrong to seek to outlaw or criminalise something just because we do not like it. I agree with that. However, there is a great difference between sexual intercourse between a man and a woman—or, for that matter, a boy and a girl, whether they are over or under the age of 16—and the act of sodomy. That is what is so often practised in homosexual relationships. I do not hesitate to say from the Conservative Benches that heterosexual sex is a God-given act for reproduction, joy and pleasure. One cannot say that of the homosexual act—the act of sodomy.

I am not an expert on biology, but if God had meant men to commit sodomy or buggery with other men, even a doctor would admit that their bodies would have been built differently. That is a fundamental reason why there is a great difference between a heterosexual and a homosexual act.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham was right to have concerns about clause 1 because it would enshrine in law an unnatural act, in particular an unnatural act of a young person who is vulnerable and in many cases does not know his true sexuality.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) said that the European Court of Human Rights or even the European Court of Justice would bring this Parliament to court as our legislation does not give equality to the sex act between men and women and men and men, but that does not mean that we should change our law. If someone said that I should jump off Beachy head because some European Court told me to do so, I would not jump off, and this mother of Parliaments, the House of Commons and, indeed, Parliament as a whole should not do something that it believes to be morally and fundamentally wrong.

The case will be taken to the European Court of Human Rights. The European charter on human rights will become part of our law on 1 January 2000. It is also a fact of history that in Act after Act, from the Mental Health Act 1983 and under Governments of all parties, this country has had to change its laws to comply with European law. One is taken to court and offered a deal, "Change the law and we won't go for you." That is what we have done time and again. There is nothing novel in the situation.

Except when the hon. Gentleman was hectoring me when I intervened from a sedentary position, he has always been a most agreeable man. We come from the same region.

The north-west. I do not believe in regional government, and I will not be led down that path. The hon. Member for St. Helens, South is a lawyer and I am not. I come from a business background. My constituents have elected me for almost 28 years, and I hope that I have a basic experience of life and that I also show good sense. Just because the law is an ass, it does not mean that I have to behave like an ass. If the European Court of Human Rights wants to bring the United Kingdom to court for failing to implement parts of the convention, let it do so. I would prefer to go screaming to defeat rather than go passively like a sheep to the slaughter. I really mean that.

This House is about people expressing their own view. I am not entirely sure that every vote has been a free vote for Labour Members. That is my view and it is an instinct. My instinct is why I oppose enshrining in law homosexual acts between youngsters of 16 upwards.

We heard certain medical views from the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris). I will repeat what I said following an intervention by the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow). When I was a member of the Select Committee on Social Services, we undertook an inquiry into AIDS. From all the evidence that we amassed, it was clear that the two prime sources of AIDS in this country were intravenous drug abuse—injecting oneself with infected or dirty needles—and the homosexual act. AIDS is costing the people of this country and of the world huge sums of money and is a great tragedy, which is resulting in tens of thousands of deaths.

I will give way to the hon. Lady. I respect the sincerity with which she has advanced her cause, although I disagree with her.

Does the hon. Gentleman care to comment on the fact that unsafe sex in the heterosexual community also carries a great risk of infection with AIDS-HIV?

I am happy to comment on that because that matter was also drawn to the attention of the Select Committee. AIDS among heterosexuals is sometimes due to bisexual men, who not only commit positive homosexual acts with men, but have heterosexual sex with women. That is one reason why there has been a limited number of AIDS cases resulting from heterosexual acts. A second reason is that one partner—either the man or the woman—is a drug abuser and injects him or herself with dirty needles. That is another way in which the AIDS disease can come into the heterosexual community.

Further to the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham at the beginning of his short speech on Third Reading, I do not want to ban, criminalise or outlaw something in legislation merely because I dislike it. I do dislike homosexual behaviour because I believe it to be unnatural. This legislation will make a large number of young men more vulnerable to predators. I see my role as protecting young men so that they go through those formative and vulnerable years to have a normal heterosexual relationship, which is the natural relationship given by God.

7.38 pm

I have always voted against the lowering of the age of consent from 18 to 16, but after hearing some of the homophobic rantings from Conservative Members, I am not sure what to do this evening.

The hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) is obviously a great expert on homosexuality, but if he thinks that this legislation would create homosexuals, that is nonsense. Listening to the hon. Gentleman has made me wonder whether he thinks that the best way to abolish homosexuality—complete nonsense in itself—is to abolish all, all-male institutions. I presume that he would want to abolish the Army, the Navy and a couple of other all-male institutions. He would probably abolish public schools—I understand that a great number of men have had their first experience of homosexuality in such schools, although I am not sure how many Labour Members that applies to. Perhaps all those of us who went to public schools could confess our experiences. I did not go; I went to Bargoed secondary school.

I am sorry that the issues have been turned into homophobic rantings. The reason that I will either abstain or vote against the Bill is that I think that people need to have time to develop their sexuality. As a young lad of 18, I went into the Army, an all-male environment. There were predators—people who had been in the Army for many years who looked for young lads. No one can deny that. When I was shadow defence Minister and homosexuality in the armed forces came up, we had a much more constructive debate than this on the problems of homosexuals in the Army and predators. I am afraid that the homophobic ranting might well make me abstain, but I will probably vote against. I do not believe that the law creates homosexuals. Homosexuality is a natural condition that people have within them. There is nothing we can do to legislate about it, but I am concerned about predators, which is one reason why I may well vote against.

7.42 pm

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) feels that there has been a lot of homophobic ranting by Conservative Members. That misrepresents what we have been saying. A feature of the way in which the Government have proposed the Bill is that they have cloaked it all with the word "equality". As we all subscribe to the concept of equality, we are invited to support it; if we do not, we are inferior citizens because we do not support the concept of equality.

All too often, it has been up to Conservative Members, with some distinguished contributions from Labour Members, to point out to the House and the wider public the Bill's practical consequences for young boys. It has largely been Conservative Members who have made that view known, but 13 Labour Members voted against clause 1 on 10 February. I do not know to what extent the Whips have been active.

The Minister need not get excited. He is not a Whip at the moment. There has been some cross-party support.

What the hon. Gentleman suggests is untrue. I have always voted against the measure. I have never been approached by a Whip or Minister about how I vote. It is silly to suggest that.

I think that I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's views, although I have checked Hansard and I see that he was not here to vote on clause 1 on 10 February. I hope that I can persuade him to support us in the Lobby tonight. This is an important issue and he should not feel that he cannot support those of us who oppose the Bill simply because some of my hon. Friends have been forthright in expressing their views. On Second Reading, one of his colleagues made a contribution that was much more explicit than anything that I have heard from other Members. The hon. Gentleman should remember that it is not Conservative Members who have been guilty of being too specific about the practicalities of what we are discussing.

I have spoken several times on the Bill because I believe that it is profoundly misguided. Those who have opposed the Bill have been concerned on two counts. First, we want to protect the vulnerable—the children. As my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) said, it is extraordinary that a Government who go to such lengths to invoke the nanny state to interfere in people's lives—

It is no good the Minister shaking his head. The top item on today's news is that the Secretary of State for Wales has eaten beef on the bone. What a brave man to fly in the face of the Government's hostility to eating that.

They were both eating beef on the bone, which is banned. The Secretary of State for Wales, having secured his "victory" in the recent election in Wales—

Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could turn his attention back to Third Reading.

My hon. Friend says that it is all too close to the bone, which is worth putting on record.

My hon. Friend the Member for Billericay has noted that the Government are keen to interfere in the decisions of individuals about how they run their lies. In this case, they wish to reduce the protection available to children. The Bill is utterly flawed because of clause 2, which provides for protection between the ages of 16 and 18 in certain circumstances, but only in certain circumstances. If the Bill's supporters believe that children between those ages need protection in some cases, it is logical for us to propose that all, and not only some, children between those ages should be protected. Therefore, the idea that this is all to do with equality is humbug.

It was only a few years ago that Parliament was invited to consider reducing the age of consent for homosexuals from 21 to 18. All the arguments were deployed and we were told that it was not proposed that matters would go further and that 18 would be fine. Of course, there were some who argued for 16. Only a few years later, we face a decision to reduce the age to 16 from 18. I believe that the supporters of the Bill—not all, but many, and certainly some of the pressure groups outside—will seek to go further. It will not be long before we have—

Again, it is no good the Minister shaking his head. It is all in "Equality 2000". The fact is that Stonewall has shown in its five-point plan how much further it wishes to go. There will therefore be further pressure. Passing the Bill will show that Parliament is prepared to go further.

I venture to suggest that there will be pressure for us to legalise homosexual marriages. I hope that those who support that will take note of what has been done in France. I gather that no fewer than 200,000 people demonstrated in Paris at the prospect of gay marriages. We know from what happened with the Countryside Alliance how the Government respond to public demonstrations. Perhaps those of us who feel strongly about this should take to the streets and demonstrate that we will not support any further move on this issue. [Interruption.]

Order. We cannot have private conversations. The hon. Gentleman must address the contents of the Bill.

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman must let me be the judge of that.

Of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was only trying to point out that the Bill follows on from a decision made by the previous Parliament to reduce the age of consent from 21, where it had stood for many years, to 18 and that now, only a few years later, we are asked to reduce the age of consent again. I contend that it will not be long before we are invited to consider further moves to provide for the homosexual life style. In Paris, 200,000 people demonstrated against the concept of gay marriages, and I hope that people will take to the streets in this country if it appears likely that we are to go down that road. There is no public support for the Bill and it is extraordinary that so many members of a Government who rely on focus groups and opinion polls are prepared to defy public opinion.

I know that the Minister is a practising christian, so I hope that he will take note of what the bishops said before Second Reading. They said that the leaders of both Church and state have a duty
"to protect them"—
children—
"from harm and exploitation and to offer them a vision of what is good."
They added that legislation affecting sexual relationships should
"set an example of what is good and be rooted in sound moral values".
They went on to say:
"Pressures are at work to legitimise any and every life style irrespective of any difference of value and quality between them. These pressures should be resisted."
That is another reason why the Bill should be opposed.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) made great play of the British Medical Association being all in favour of reducing the age of consent, but I remind him that the same argument was used in 1994, when it was claimed that, if we reduced the age of consent from 21 to 18, the number of new HIV cases would fall because young people would come forward and seek advice without fear of being prosecuted. The truth is that figures show that, overall, HIV infections acquired through sex between men rose by 11 per cent. from 1995 to 1996—a full year after the change was made by Parliament. The British Medical Journal, which is the official organ of the BMA, said at the time that that was
"a considerable rise compared with previous years"
and found that new cases of HIV infection were
"particularly common among young homosexual men."
I rest my case: the Bill will increase the risk of HIV infection among vulnerable young men by increasing their exposure to that fatal illness. I do not believe that either the BMA or the hon. Gentleman has proved that medical opinion is in favour of the Bill. There is clear evidence that, if the Bill is passed, there will be increased infection among young people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) mentioned the European convention on human rights and the European Court of Human Rights. I find it deeply offensive that a matter of this nature should be decided by a court beyond our islands, when this Parliament is perfectly capable of deciding this issue. Even if I oppose Parliament's likely decision, I do not believe that it should be second-guessed by foreigners sitting in Strasbourg or anywhere else. We should be able to decide such matters in this country and I resent that idea that Parliament cannot adequately safeguard human rights.

We have had our say and made a strong case on why the Bill should be resisted. I shall vote against it on Third Reading, as I did on Second Reading, and I hope that I shall be joined by a good representative number of Labour Members. I also hope that, when the Bill goes to another place, their lordships will not be afeared to stand firm as they have done before and that, if we cannot defeat the Bill in this House, they will ensure that public opinion is properly reflected by voting it down in the other place.

7.55 pm

Clauses 1 and 2 have been the subject of free votes among Conservative Members and, as I said, when I speak from the Dispatch Box I am expressing only my personal views. My right hon. and hon. Friends have expressed their views, which may be different. In this matter, we are called on to exercise our individual judgment and decide what we think is the appropriate age of consent.

The hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) was right: the case which he mentioned is before the European Court, which has decided that there is a case to answer. We do not know what the outcome will be. Even before the European convention on human rights was incorporated into domestic law, we always incorporated the findings of the European Court in our law. Even so, on a matter such as the one before us now, we have to exercise our individual consciences and judgment and do what is right, while simultaneously endeavouring to represent our constituents as best we can.

I do not feel any shred of homophobia: I do not think that homosexuality is evil or wrong; still less do I think that individual homosexuals are evil. However, when called on to exercise my judgment on the right age of consent—we have to set one; we cannot do away with it altogether—the more I think about it, the more I believe that 18 is the appropriate age of consent and that 16 is simply far too young.

That was my view when the matter came before the House last year, in an amendment to what became the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. At that time, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who served on the Standing Committee, raised the important matter of the protection of young people. He did the House a great service in doing so, for that is an eminently worthy objective and one of which the House should be mindful, especially in view of the catalogue of cases chronicled in the Utting report, to which the hon. Gentleman drew our attention. He described many cases in which young people in residential and other forms of care had been made the victims of abuse by older people—a scandalous state of affairs which had existed for far too long and was brought to light time and again, to an almost unbelievable extent.

The hon. Gentleman brought that issue to the House's attention, and the debate that took place at that time gave rise to clause 2, which attempts to protect young people by creating a new offence of abuse of trust. We should do all that we can to promote that worthy objective, but the provisions that the Government have produced to achieve that aim fall well short of what is needed. It has three important weaknesses: first, clause 2 does nothing to protect under-16s, yet it is under-16s who are the main subject matter of the Utting report. They are the most vulnerable and the most in need of protection from potential abusers. We believe that there are ways in which under-16s could be given greater protection, but the Bill does not go so far, and that is an important defect.

Secondly, in respect of the protection that the Bill does give to 16 and 17-year-olds, the scope of the definition of a position of trust set down in the Bill by the Government is not nearly broad enough. The public will feel that many people who are not included in that definition should be so included. To adopt an argument advanced by the Liberal Democrats, some teachers who are considered to be in a position of trust under the Bill might well wonder why that should be when other people in other walks of life—clergymen, youth leaders—are not so considered. With great eloquence and gloss, the Minister put his arguments as to why that should be so. However, I am not convinced by them. I am more convinced by the contribution of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) who, in a much earlier speech, asked quite bluntly why clergymen, scout leaders and other youth leaders had not been brought within the ambit of the Bill. It is difficult to understand why they are not.

The third defect is that the maximum sentence was too low. That situation has now been remedied through our amendment in Committee, and we welcome the fact that the Government have seen sense and increased the maximum penalty.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) remarked about my earlier contribution to the House when I drew attention to the number of prosecutions for offences involving under-age sex and how there had been a significant change—a collapse—in those figures following the last lowering of the age of consent. I heard the points that the hon. Gentleman made on this subject. I did not call then—and I do not do so now—for any oppressive action or witch hunt. I do not want the police or other authorities to go on the offensive and seek out convictions under this offence. I hope that the law will be enforced properly, sensibly and sensitively, especially—but not exclusively—when one of the perpetrators is much older.

I listened to the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) on the question of decriminalising the offence when one of the parties is under age. I can provide some reassurance on that point. I understand the concern that motivates him, but he must bear in mind the fact that, even with new clause 4, the offence will remain when both parties are under age. When only one of the parties is under age, it will be an offence for the over-age party. The law exists to protect the under-age party and to bring the older party to justice in those circumstances. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said, on balance, that is the decision that we must take and that is where the public interest lies. We must bring the older party to justice without creating any disincentive for the younger person to report the offence. The under-age party should not become embroiled in criminal proceedings, and this is a sensible and well-justified change.

I do not believe that clause 2 goes far enough in protecting young people. I think that the Government were timid in introducing the Bill, which contains several potential loopholes, anomalies and inconsistencies. I am doubtful about the defence that the Government afford to older people who, I believe, should know the ages of those they are teaching and looking after. That defence is anomalous and creates an entirely new type of defence. I am also concerned about the precedent that it will set. Although I welcome any attempts to protect young people, the Government's attempts are flawed.

Those flaws are greater still when it comes to the main subject of the Bill. I do not feel any animus towards homosexual people: I welcome greater tolerance in society. However, I believe that 16 is too young for the purposes of the Bill. When the matter first came before the House, I supported reducing the age of consent from 21 to 18 years because I thought that the case for that change was well made and that it was oppressive for people to have to wait until the age of 21 before engaging in homosexual activities. However, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, some young people of 15, 16 and 17 are not fixed in their sexual preferences. I think that they should practise a little abstinence and wait until they are 18 before engaging lawfully in such activities.

That view was shared by the Wolfenden commission, which certainly did not start from a position of hostility towards homosexuals. That commission discounted 16 as an age of consent in the 1950s. It found that too many young men did not have fixed sexual preferences at that age and that 16 was too young to take such a big step which could have profound consequences for the rest of people's lives. I believe that it does not do any harm to make a person wait until 18.

I believe that many people share that view. I know that public opinion has been prayed in aid on all sides of the debate—it is difficult to be entirely accurate about public opinion in these circumstances. Many people have strong views about homosexuality and oppose it altogether—that is entirely a matter for them. However, many others look at the issue pragmatically and ask, "What is the appropriate age for youngsters to become involved in homosexual activity?" Drawing on their own lives and everyday experiences, they have concluded that 16-year-olds are far too young to take such momentous decisions.

Hon. Members who favour reducing the age of consent to 16 are taking a step that will leave many constituents and a large section of the public with a sense of deep unease. This momentous decision comes hot on the heels of an earlier reduction in the age of consent from 21 to 18 years. The Bill goes too far too fast and allows people to make this important decision when they are still too young. Those are my views and that is why I shall oppose the measure.

8.6 pm

This has been a wide-ranging debate. I wish that it had not ranged as wide as the twin cities of the plain via Aldershot and the New forest. Nevertheless, if that is where the debate had to lead, so be it. This debate has been spread over several sessions. We have considered the Bill carefully, and I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the care and attention that they have displayed in the House and in Committee.

Everyone has had plenty of opportunities to express his or her views and, in the main, those views have been heard respectfully. Therefore, it is rather sad that some Opposition Members should suggest that those who support the Bill do so at the behest of some hidden, or not so hidden, agenda. That does not do justice to the deeply held feelings about fairness and equality that many hon. Members share with people outside this place who do not work to any hidden agenda either. The agenda for those who support the Bill is clear: equality and respect. They seek equality before the law in terms of equalising the age of consent and respect for vulnerability and trust, and share a determination to ensure that that trust is not broken. They are two distinct aims and it is important to stress that the two parts of the Bill are separate: each is important in its own right.

We must also be clear about what the Bill can and cannot do. It can—I believe that it should—provide for equality before the law in relation to the age of consent. It can—I believe that it should—provide specific targeted protection for people who are particularly at risk from abuse of trust perpetrated by those in positions of authority. However, the Bill cannot go beyond that without the risk of getting it badly wrong.

I assure the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) that the Bill cannot remove all the anomalies and inequities in sexual offences law; nor can it be a wide-ranging child protection measure which rewrites the law on a grand scale. For example, the Bill cannot protect children in the family home or guard against abuse from strangers. Protection of the vulnerable, coupled with equality before the law, is the driving aim of the sexual offences review. We will ensure that the European convention on human rights informs and shapes the outcome of that review.

Those who suggest that people support the measure—the charge was levelled particularly at my right hon. and hon. Friends—simply to comply with the European Court of Human Rights are wrong. The impulse is quite different: it recognises the importance of equality before the law and the need to protect the vulnerable in circumstances in which trust may be abused. That is what drives this legislation.

I say to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) and others that we ought to be concerned—the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has certainly accepted this point—about a society in which there is a lack of restraint in people's sexual appetite. It is wrong to believe that concern about unrestrained sexual appetite exists solely on one side of the House. We are all concerned about recognising the importance of children and young people deferring sexual activity as late as it is reasonable to expect them to do so. We all understand that.

Are we not all concerned about the sexualisation of children and young people? If we are not, we certainly ought to be. However, to believe that criminal law is the way to ensure that young people refrain from irresponsible or dangerous sexual behaviour simply flies in the face of reason. Young people will not be deterred from sex by the criminal law. We know that young people are made frightened, fearful and ill, but we know also that young people do not desist from sexual activity because we criminalise that activity.

No, the hon. Gentleman has had an opportunity to speak during our discussions on these matters.

The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) again suggests that there is a hidden agenda at work. We know that there is evidence that we cannot ascribe to homosexuals the spread of AIDS. It is wrong to demonise any group of people in that way. AIDS is a public health issue and, when we are concerned with such issues, we must recognise that ignorance, fear and lack of information contribute to a danger to public health. Those are the real dangers, not this measure. To suggest otherwise does not do justice to the arguments.

No; the hon. Gentleman has had his say during our debates, and no doubt we shall return to the subject.

The House has had an opportunity to express a view and to scrutinise the Bill in great depth. It is now time to send the Bill to another place. I believe that, tonight, the Bill and its detailed proposals will receive an overwhelming endorsement based on principles of equality and a determination to ensure that the vulnerable are protected from abuse of trust. That is what will motivate hon. Members in the Lobbies tonight, and the other place had better listen to the democratically elected Chamber, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it crystal clear that we do not intend for the will of Parliament to be thwarted again. Each and every one of us will go into the Lobbies tonight exercising his or her conscience. This is a free vote, and I, for one, shall vote for Third Reading of the Bill.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 281, Noes 82.

Division No. 79]

[8.13 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms DianeDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Dean, Mrs Janet
Alexander, DouglasDewar, Rt Hon Donald
Allan, RichardDismore, Andrew
Allen, GrahamDonohoe, Brian H
Armstrong, Ms HilaryDoran, Frank
Ashton, JoeEagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Atherton, Ms CandyEnnis, Jeff
Atkins, CharlotteEtherington, Bill
Baker, NormanEwing, Mrs Margaret
Ballard, JackieFabricant, Michael
Banks, TonyFearn, Ronnie
Barnes, HarryFisher, Mark
Barron, KevinFitzpatrick, Jim
Bayley, HughFlint, Caroline
Beard, NigelFlynn, Paul
Begg, Miss AnneFollett, Barbara
Beith, Rt Hon A JFoster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Bennett, Andrew FFoster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bermingham, GeraldFoulkes, George
Berry, RogerFyfe, Maria
Best, HaroldGalloway, George
Blears, Ms HazelGapes, Mike
Blizzard, BobGardiner, Barry
Boateng, PaulGeorge, Bruce (Walsall S)
Borrow, DavidGerrard, Neil
Boswell, TimGibson, Dr Ian
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Godman, Dr Norman A
Brady, GrahamGodsiff, Roger
Brake, TomGoggins, Paul
Brinton, Mrs HelenGolding, Mrs Llin
Buck, Ms KarenGriffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Butler, Mrs ChristineGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell—Savours, DaleGrogan, John
Canavan, DennisHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Casale, RogerHall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caton, MartinHanson, David
Cawsey, IanHarris, Dr Evan
Chaytor, DavidHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Chisholm, MalcolmHeath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Clapham, MichaelHenderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Hepburn, Stephen
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)Heppell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hesford, Stephen
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clelland, DavidHill, Keith
Coaker, VernonHodge, Ms Margaret
Coffey, Ms AnnHoon, Geoffrey
Cohen, HarryHope, Phil
Coleman, IainHopkins, Kelvin
Colman, TonyHowarth, Alan (Newport E)
Cooper, YvetteHowells, Dr Kim
Corbett, RobinHughes, Ms Beveriey (Stretford)
Corbyn, JeremyHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corston, Ms JeanHumble, Mrs Joan
Cotter, BrianHurst, Alan
Cousins, JimHutton, John
Cox, TomIllsley, Eric
Crausby, DavidJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Jamieson, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Jenkins, Brian
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Curry, Rt Hon DavidJones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dafis, CynogJones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Dalyell, TamJowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Darling, Rt Hon AlistairKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Darvill, KeithKeeble, Ms Sally

Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)Ruane, Chris
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)Ruddock, Joan
Key, RobertRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Kidney, DavidRyan, Ms Joan
Kumar, Dr AshokSalter, Martin
Ladyman, Dr StephenSanders, Adrian
Lawrence, Ms JackieSavidge, Malcolm
Laxton, BobSawford, Phil
Leslie, ChristopherSedgemore, Brian
Levitt, TomSheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Linton, MartinShipley, Ms Debra
Livingstone, KenShort, Rt Hon Clare
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)Singh, Marsha
Lock, DavidSkinner, Dennis
Love, AndrewSmith, Angela (Basildon)
McAllion, JohnSmith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McAvoy, ThomasSmith, John (Glamorgan)
McCabe, SteveSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
McDonagh, SiobhainSouthworth, Ms Helen
McDonnell, JohnSpellar, John
McIsaac, ShonaSquire, Ms Rachel
Mackinlay, AndrewStarkey, Dr Phyllis
McLeish, HenrySteinberg, Gerry
McNulty, TonyStevenson, George
MacShane, DenisStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Mactaggart, FionaStinchcombe, Paul
McWalter, TonyStoate, Dr Howard
McWilliam, JohnStrang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mahon, Mrs AliceStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Mandelson, Rt Hon PeterStringer, Graham
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Stuart, Ms Gisela
Marshall—Andrews, RobertSutcliffe, Gerry
Martlew, EricTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Maxton, JohnTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelTemple—Morris, Peter
Meale, AlanThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Milburn, Rt Hon AlanTimms, Stephen
Miller, AndrewTouhig, Don
Moffatt, LauraTrickett, Jon
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Truswell, Paul
Morley, ElliotTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Mountford, KaliTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Mullin, ChrisTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Tyler, Paul
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)

Vis, Dr RudiWinnick, David
Walley, Ms JoanWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Watts, DavidWood, Mike
White, BrianWoolas, Phil
Whitehead, Dr AlanWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wicks, MalcolmWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)

Mrs. Anne McGuire and

Wills, Michael

Mr. Jim Dowd.

NOES

Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)Lidington, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesLilley, Rt Hon Peter
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Loughton, Tim
Benton, JoeMacGregor, Rt Hon John
Bercow, JohnMaclean, Rt Hon David
Blunt, CrispinMcLoughlin, Patrick
Body, Sir RichardMaude, Rt Hon Francis
Brazier, JulianMawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)Page, Richard
Butterfill, JohnPaterson, Owen
Cann, JamiePickles, Eric
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)Pollard, Kerry
Powell, Sir Raymond
Clappison, JamesRandall, John
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan
Cran, JamesRowlands, Ted
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Ruffley, David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Day, StephenSt Aubyn, Nick
Duncan Smith, IainShephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Faber, DavidSmyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Fallon, MichaelSpicer, Sir Michael
Flight, HowardStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Fraser, ChristopherSyms, Robert
Gale, RogerTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Gill, ChristopherTaylor, Sir Teddy
Gillan, Mrs CherylThompson, William
Grieve, DominicTrend, Michael
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnViggers, Peter
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieWalter, Robert
Hawkins, NickWardle, Charles
Heald, OliverWareing, Robert N
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasWaterson, Nigel
Howard, Rt Hon MichaelWhitney, Sir Raymond
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lait, Mrs JacquiWray, James
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward

Tellers for the Noes:

Letwin, Oliver

Mrs. Teresa Gorman and

Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)

Mr. Desmond Swayne.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.