MPs LAST night decided in a historic vote to lower the age of consent

for homosexual men from 21 to 18.

Voting was 427 to 162, an overwhelmingly majority of 265, for a

compromise backed by the Prime Minister.

Amid cheering in a crowded Commons, they first rejected a move to

lower it to 16 in line with the heterosexual age.

This bid to equalise the age of consent for homosexual and

heterosexual sex at 16 was rejected by 307 to 280, a majority of 27.

As the decisive second result was announced, one dejected gay rights

campaigner shouted from the public gallery: ''Thanks for nothing!''

The free vote in the committee stage of the Criminal Justice and

Public Order Bill was the first on the contentious issue in more than 25

years and brought passionate divisions in the overflowing chamber.

The vote for a halfway house seems certain to ensure that the issue

will not go away -- a point made during the debate by supporters of 16.

Outside the Palace of Westminster. campaigners for a reduction to 16

mounted a candlelit vigil during the debate.

The option of 18 was carried after Home Secretary Michael Howard said

it struck ''the right balance''.

He said: ''We should not criminalise private actions freely entered

into by consenting mature adults -- on the other hand, we need to

protect vulnerable young men from activities which their lack of

maturity might cause them to regret.''

Tory former junior Health Minister Edwina Currie was heckled by her

own side when she advocated the case for 16, insisting: ''Homosexuality

in this country is subject to enforced discrimination, which is now out

of date, indefensible and way out of line with the rest of the world.''

Mrs Currie said: ''It's no longer a minority issue, but one of human

rights which touches us all.''

She said Britain's age of consent for homosexual men was the highest

in the world, except for countries like Serbia where it was banned


Courts should be ''well enough occupied pursuing the real thugs and

thieves'' instead of chasing homosexual men over consensual acts.

However, fellow-Tory Bill Walker (Tayside North) told the House:

''It's neither natural or normal to carry out homosexual activity.

That's why there has to be protection for young boys.''

Tory Tony Marlow (Northampton North) told Mrs Currie: ''You are

seeking to get us to vote to legalise the buggery of adolescent males.

Do you really think that's what our constituents sent us here to do?''

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam -- Con.) claimed that a

16-year-old boy troubled by his growing sexuality could be vulnerable to

pressure from the gay lobby.

However, Mrs Currie stuck firmly to her guns. There were homosexual

soldiers, Judges, peers and MPs, and it was time to ''take the dark

shadows and turn them into human beings.'' Equality was the only

worthwhile and sustainable position, she said.

Proposing the reduction in the homosexual age of consent to 18, Sir

Anthony Durant (Reading West -- Con.) said many young men were still

unclear about their sexuality between 16 and 18.

He said: ''There is concern among quite a lot of people about older

men approaching young boys. Now I know this has never been proved one

way or the other, but it is a fact that we are here to protect young


Shadow Home Secretary Tony Blair backed Mrs Currie's amendment: ''The

issue is not at what age we wish young people to have sex, it is whether

the criminal law should discriminate between heterosexual and homosexual


''It's not an issue of age, but of equality.''

He said the overwhelming evidence was that homosexuals were not taught

or persuaded: ''It's not against the nature of gay people to be gay. It

is their nature. It is what they are.

''It's different, but that doesn't make it grounds for


Labour MP Chris Smith (Islington South and Finsbury), who has

proclaimed himself to be homosexual, told the House: ''There is a basic

fundamental principle that I believe in -- that we are all equal before

the law.

''At the moment, as far as young gay men are concerned, the law does

not permit that to be the case.''

He declared: ''Yes, we are different. We have a different sexuality.

''That doesn't make us in any way less valid or less worthy as

citizens of this country. Yet the law at present says that we are.''

He urged MPs to back equality ''simply because it is the right thing

to do''.

Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley, whose vehement speech was

almost drowned out by laughter at times, urged MPs to save young boys

from going down the homosexual road, and to vote not ''for the

destruction of young boys but for their deliverance -- and they need to

be delivered''.

Former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, supporting Mrs Currie, said her

proposal was equitable and rational.

He said a common age of consent made sense, since if most

heterosexuals knew their orientation at 16, why should not homosexuals?

He had been, as a father, as exercised about the prospect of his son

having heterosexual sex at 16 as that of his daughter doing so: ''I just

hope that had it been the case that either of my children had proved to

have homosexual orientation, I could have shown them the love and

understanding as their parent, as many parents in this country already


''I was not offered that test, for which, I frankly give thanks,'' he

admitted -- because homosexuals were a minority, were regarded as being

isolated, did not have children, and were criminalised even at 16.

Mr Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey -- Lib Dem.) proposed a

common age of consent for heterosexual and homosexual relationships of

17 but conceded his party's policy was for a uniform age of consent at


Mr Hughes said his concern was ''whether or not 16 is too young''.

Mr Mike Watson (Glasgow Central -- Lab.) praised Mrs Currie's work in

campaigning for gay rights, and said: ''It is quite wrong we should seek

to stigmatise young men for doing what their heterosexual friends do.''

He said there was no evidence older men would prey on young boys if

the age of consent was reduced to 16.

Mr Watson called for an end to the anomaly where if a teacher seduced

a 17-year-old girl he would be within the law, but if a gay teacher

seduced a 17-year-old boy he would end up in jail.


Peter Ainsworth (Surrey E), Jonathan Aitken (Thanet S), Michael Alison

(Selby), David Amess (Basildon), James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and

Woodford), Sir Tom Arnold (Hazel Grove), David Ashby (Leicestershire

NW), David Atkinson (Bournemouth E). Kenneth Baker (Mole Valley), Tony

Baldry (Banbury), Robert Banks (Harrogate), Spencer Batiste (Elmet),

Henry Bellingham (Norfolk NW), John Biffen (Shropshire N), Sir Richard

Body (Holland with Boston), Tim Boswell (Daventry), Peter Bottomley

(Eltham), Virginia Bottomley (Surrey SW), Andrew Bowden (Brighton

Kemptown), John Bowis (Battersea), Gyles Brandreth (Chester), Michael

Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes), Angela Browning (Tiverton), Simon Burns

(Chelmsford), Alistair Burt (Bury N), Peter Butler (Milton Keynes NE),

John Butterfill (Bournemouth W). Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln), Matthew

Carrington (Fulham), Paul Channon (Southend W), Sydney Chapman (Chipping

Barnet), James Clappison (Hertsmere), Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe),

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury), Sebastian Coe

(Falmouth and Camborne), Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside), David

Congdon (Croydon NE), Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham), Anthony

Coombs (Wyre Forest), Simon Coombs (Swindon), Sir John Cope (Northavon),

James Couchman (Gillingham), Edwina Currie (Derbyshire S), David Curry

(Skipton and Ripon). Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding), Niranjan

Deva (Brentford and Isleworth), Stephen Dorrell (Loughborough), Lord

James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh W), Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton),

Bob Dunn (Dartford), Sir Tony Durant (Reading W). Tim Eggar (Enfield N),

Harold Elletson (Blackpool N), Sir Peter Emery (Honiton). David Faber

(Westbury), Michael Fabricant (Staffordshire Mid), Barry Field (Isle of

Wight), Dudley Fishburn (Kensington), Michael Forsyth (Stirling), Eric

Forth (Worcestershire Mid), Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield), Dr

Liam Fox (Woodspring). Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford), Edward Garnier

(Harborough), Alastair Goodlad (Eddisbury), John Gorst (Hendon N).

William Hague (Richmond, Yorks), Neil Hamilton (Tatton), Dr Keith

Hampson (Leeds NW), Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes), Sir John Hannam

(Exeter), Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham Hall Green), David Harris (St

Ives), Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), Jerry Hayes (Harlow), Sir

Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup), Charles Hendry (High Peak), Sir

Terence Higgins (Worthing) James Hill (Southampton Test), Douglas Hogg

(Grantham), Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham), Michael Howard (Folkestone and

Hythe), Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon), David Howell (Guildford),

Robert G Hughes (Harrow W), David Hunt (Wirral W), Sir John Hunt

(Ravensbourne), Dauglas Hurd (Witney). Michael Jack (Fylde), Robert

Jackson (Wantage), Bernard Jenkin (Colchester N), Sir Geoffrey Johnson

Smith (Wealden), Robert B Jones (Hertfordshire W), Michael Jopling

(Westmorland and Lonsdale). Robert Key (Salisbury), Greg Knight (Derby

N), Sir David Knox (Staffordshire Moorlands). Jacqui Lait (Hastings and

Rye), Norman Lamont (Kingston upon Thames), Ian Lang (Galloway and Upper

Nithsdale), Mark Lennox-Boyd (Morecambe and Lunesdale), Jim Lester

(Broxtowe), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (St Albans), Peter

Lloyd (Fareham), Peter Luff (Worcester), Sir Nicholas Lyell

(Bedfordshire Mid). John MacGregor (Norfolk S), Andrew MacKay (Berkshire

E), Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire W), Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New

Forest), Sir David Madel (Bedfordshire SW), Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton

and Cheam), John Major (Huntingdon), Gerry Malone (Winchester), Paul

Marland (Gloucestershire W), Dr Brian Mawhinney (Peterborough), David

Mellor (Putney), Andrew Mitchell (Gedling), Sir David Mitchell

(Hampshire NW), Sir Roger Moate (Faversham), Sir Fergus Montgomery

(Altrincham and Sale), Tony Newton (Braintree), David Nicholson

(Taunton), Emma Nicholson (Devon W and Torridge), Steven Norris (Epping

Forest). Sir Cranley Onslow (Woking), Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley).

Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton), James Pawsey (Rugby and

Kenilworth), Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar), Michael Portillo

(Enfield Southgate). Tim Rathbone (Lewes), Tim Renton (Sussex Mid),

Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh Pentlands), Raymond Robertson (Aberdeen S),

Andrew Rowe (Kent Mid), Dame Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden),

Richard Ryder (Norfolk Mid). Tim Sainsbury (Hove), Nicholas Scott

(Chelsea), Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey), Colin Shepherd (Hereford), Richard

Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Nicholas Soames (Crawley), Sir Keith

Speed (Ashford), Sir James Spicer (Dorset W), Michael Spicer

(Worcestershire S), Richard Spring (Bury St Edmunds), Robin Squire

(Hornchurch), Allan Stewart (Eastwood). Peter Temple-Morris

(Leominster), Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove), Sir Donald Thompson (Calder

Valley), Peter Thurnham (Bolton NE), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Ian

Twinn (Edmonton). Sir Gerard Vaughan (Reading E). William Waldegrave

(Bristol W), George Walden (Buckingham), Gary Waller (Keighley), Charles

Wardle (Bexhill and Battle), Sir John Wheeler (Westminster N), John

Whittingdale (Colchester S and Maldon), David Willetts (Havant), David

Wilshire (Spelthorne), Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks), Timothy Wood

(Stevenage). Sir George Young (Acton).

Labour MPs who voted for proposal of 18

Irene Adams (Paisley N), Nick Ainger (Pembroke), Robert Ainsworth

(Coventry NE), Graham Allen (Nottingham N), Donald Anderson (Swansea E),

Hilary Armstrong (Durham NW), Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw), John Austin-Walker

(Woolwich). Tony Banks (Newham NW), Harry Barnes (Derbyshire NE), Kevin

Barron (Rother Valley), John Battle (Leeds W), Hugh Bayley (York),

Margaret Beckett (Derby S), Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough), Tony Benn

(Chesterfield), Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish), Roger Berry

(Kingswood), Tony Blair (Sedgefield), David Blunkett (Sheffield

Brightside), Paul Boateng (Brent S), Roland Boyes (Houghton and

Washington), Keith Bradley (Manchester Withington), Dr Jeremy Bray

(Motherwell S), Gordon Brown (Dunfermline E), Nicholas Brown (Newcastle

upon Tyne E), Stephen Byers (Wallsend). Richard Caborn (Sheffield

Central), Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton), Anne Campbell

(Cambridge), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Dale Campbell-Savours

(Workington), Dennis Canavan (Falkirk W), Jamie Cann (Ipswich), Malcolm

Chisholm (Edinburgh Leith), Michael Clapham (Barnsley W and Penistone),

Dr David Clark (South Shields), Eric Clarke (Midlothian), Tom Clarke

(Monklands W), Ann Coffey (Stockport), Harry Cohen (Leyton), Michael

Connarty (Falkirk E), Frank Cook (Stockton N), Robin Cook (Livingston),

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington N), Jean Corston (Bristol E), Tom Cox

(Tooting), Bob Cryer (Bradford S), John Cummings (Easington), Jim

Cunningham (Coventry SE), Dr Jack Cunningham (Copeland). Tam Dalyell

(Linlithgow), Alistair Darling (Edinburgh Central), Ian Davidson

(Glasgow Govan), Bryan Davies (Oldham Central and Royton), Denzil Davies

(Llanelli), Terry Davis (Birmingham Hodge Hill), John Denham

(Southampton Itchen), Donald Dewar (Glasgow Garscadden), Don Dixon

(Jarrow), Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras), Brian Donohoe

(Cunninghame S), Jim Dowd (Lewisham W). Angela Eagle (Wallasey), Ken

Eastham (Manchester Blackley), Derek Enright (Hemsworth), William

Etherington (Sunderland N), John Evans (St Helens N). Derek Fatchett

(Leeds Central), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Mark Fisher (Stoke Central),

Paul Flynn (Newport W), Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland), George Foulkes

(Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley), John Fraser (Norwood), Maria Fyfe

(Glasgow Maryhill). Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden), Mike

Gapes (Ilford S), John Garrett (Norwich S), Bruce George (Walsall S),

Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow), John Gilbert (Dudley E), Dr Norman Godman

(Greenock and Port Glasgow), Llin Golding (Newcastle-under-Lyme),

Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar), Thomas Graham (Renfrew W and

Inverclyde), Bernie Grant (Tottenham), Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh S),

Wyn Griffiths (Bridgend), Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin), John Gunnell

(Leeds S and Morley). Mike Hall (Warrington S), David Hanson (Delyn),

Peter Hardy (Wentworth), Harriet Harman (Peckham), Roy Hattersley

(Birmingham Sparkbrook), Doug Henderson (Newcastle N), David Hinchliffe

(Wakefield), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and

Kilsyth), John Home Robertson (East Lothian), Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale),

Geoff Hoon (Ashfield), George Howarth (Knowsley N), Dr Kim Howells

(Pontypridd), Kevin Hughes (Doncaster N), Robert Hughes (Aberdeen N),

John Hutton (Barrow and Furness). Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central), Adam

Ingram (East Kilbride). Helen Jackson (Sheffield Hillsborough), Greville

Janner (Leicester W), Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside), Jon Owen Jones

(Cardiff Central), Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak), Martyn Jones

(Clwyd SW), Tessa Jowell (Dulwich). Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton),

Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston), Jane Kennedy (Liverpool Broadgreen),

Piara Khabra (Ealing Southall), Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool Walton), Neil

Kinnock (Islwyn). Ron Leighton (Newham NE), Joan Lestor (Eccles) Terry

Lewis (Worsley), Robert Litherland (Manchester Central), Tony Lloyd

(Stretford), Eddie Loyden (Liverpool Garston). John McAllion (Dundee E),

Tommy McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen), John McFall (Dumbarton), William

McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun), Andrew MacKinlay (Thurrock), Henry

McLeish (Fife Central), Gordon McMaster (Paisley S), Kevin McNamara

(Hull N), John McWilliam (Blaydon), Max Madden (Bradford W), Alice Mahon

(Halifax), Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool), Dr John Marek (Wrexham), Eric

Martlew (Carlisle), John Maxton (Glasgow Cathcart), Michael Meacher

(Oldham W), Alan Meale (Mansfield), Alun Michael (Cardiff S and

Penarth), Bill Michie (Sheffield Heeley), Alan Milburn (Darlington),

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston), Austin Mitchell (Great

Grimsby), Dr Lewis Moonie (Kirkcaldy), Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff W), Elliot

Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe), Alf Morris (Manchester Wythenshawe),

Estelle Morris (Birmingham Yardley), George Mudie (Leeds E), Chris

Mullin (Sunderland S), Paul Murphy (Torfaen). Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire

N), William O'Brien (Normanton), Eddie O'Hara (Knowsley S), Bill Olner

(Nuneaton), Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan), Stan Orme (Salford E). Robert

Parry (Liverpool Riverside), Terry Patchett (Barnsley E), Peter Pike

(Burnley), Greg Pope (Hyndburn), Ray Powell (Ogmore), Bridget Prentice

(Lewisham E), Gordon Prentice (Pendle), John Prescott (Hull E), Dawn

Primarolo (Bristol S). Joyce Quin (Gateshead E). Giles Radice (Durham

N), Stuart Randall (Hull W), Nick Raynsford (Greenwich), Dr John Reid

(Motherwell N), George Robertson (Hamilton), Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry

NW), Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green), Jeff Rooker (Birmingham

Perry Barr), Terry Rooney (Bradford N), Ernie Ross (Dundee W), Ted

Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney), Joan Ruddock (Lewisham Deptford).

Brian Sedgemore (Hackney S and Shoreditch), Barry Sheerman

(Huddersfield), Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne), Peter Shore (Bethnal

Green and Stepney), Clare Short (Birmingham Ladywood), Alan Simpson

(Nottingham S), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Andrew Smith (Oxford E),

Chris Smith (Islington S and Finsbury), John Smith (Monklands E),

Llewellyn Smith (Blaneau Gwent), Peter Snape (West Bromwich E), Clive

Soley (Hammersmith), Nigel Spearing (Newham S), John Spellar (Warley W),

Rachel Squire (Dunfermline W), Gerry Steinberg (Durham City), George

Stevenson (Stoke S), Roger Stott (Wigan), Dr Gavin Strang (Edinburgh E),

Jack Straw (Blackburn). Ann Taylor (Dewsbury), Jack Thompson (Wansbeck),

Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton SE). Keith Vaz (Leicester E). Sir Harold

Walker (Doncaster Cent), Joan Walley (Stoke N), Gareth Wardell (Gower),

Robert Wareing (Liverpool West Derby), Malcolm Wicks (Croydon NW), Alan

J Williams (Swansea W), Alan W Williams (Carmarthen), Brian Wilson

(Cunninghame N), David Winnick (Walsall N), Audrey Wise (Preston), Tony

Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie), Tony Wright (Cannock and

Burntwood). David Young (Bolton SE).

MPs from other parties in favour of the change

Liberal Democrats supporting plan for age 18 were: David Alton

(Liverpool Mossley Hill), Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil). Alan Beith

(Berwick-upon-Tweed), Malcolm Bruce (Gordon). Menzies Campbell (Fife

NE), Alex Carlile (Montgomery). Don Foster (Bath).Simon Hughes

(Southwark and Bermondsey). Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and

Lochaber), Nigel Jones (Cheltenham). Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and

Skye), Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire). Liz Lynne (Rochdale).

Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland), Diana Maddock

(Christchurch). David Rendel (Newbury). Sir David Steel (Tweeddale,

Ettrick and Lauderdale). Matthew Taylor (Truro), Paul Tyler (Cornwall

N). James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland).

Other party MPs who voted in favour were: Cynog Dafis (Plaid Cymru

Ceredigion and Pembroke N). Margaret Ewing (SNP Moray). John Hume (SDLP

Foyle). Ieuan Wyn Jones (Plaid Cymru Ynys Mon). Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru

Meirionnydd Nant Conwy). Alex Salmond (SNP Banff and Buchan). John D

Taylor (UUP Strangford). Dafydd Wigley (Plaid Cymru Caernarfon).