Monday, 22 June 2015

The age of consent

Seventeen years ago tonight, the House of Commons voted for the reduction of the age of consent for male homosexuality from eighteen to sixteen, the same as it was for heterosexuals. As a matter of conscience, MPs were permitted to vote however they wished on this measure, and it passed with a majority of 207.

Broadly speaking, the Labour Party was in favour, and the prime minister Tony Blair and home secretary Jack Straw led the way into the Yes lobby. Just thirteen Labour MPs voted against - not very big names though their number did include Stuart Bell, Tam Dalyell and Gwyneth Dunwoody. Then there were the eleven members of the cabinet who, for one reason or another, did not vote either way: Margaret Beckett, David Blunkett, Gordon Brown, David Clark, Robin Cook, Jack Cunningham, Donald Dewar, Frank Dobson, Mo Mowlam, John Morris and Ann Taylor.

And, broadly speaking, the Conservative Party opposed the change in the law, though seventeen did vote in favour of the motion. Most notable amongst these was former prime minister Edward Heath, alongside the likes of Alan Duncan, Michael Fabricant and Shaun Woodward. Also voting for the reduction in the age of consent were Peter Bottomley and Alastair Goodlad, neither of whose names is remotely funny in this context.

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