Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill — Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill — 1 Mar 1999

Mr Raymond Powell MP, Ogmore voted in the minority (No).

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 31, leave out 'two' and insert 'five'.

The amendment would raise the maximum penalty for the new offence of abuse of trust from two to five years. It has been tabled by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the shadow Secretary of State, the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison), and the hon. Member who deputises for the Opposition on these matters, the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), so it enjoys the support of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. The amendment follows a detailed discussion in Committee on a similar amendment. We undertook to consider the position further in the light of the cogent arguments made then.

Hon. Members will recall that, on Second Reading,my hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South(Mr. Bermingham) made two persuasive interventions to raise the issue of penalties. It is right that his name should be mentioned in relation to this amendment.

We have looked at the amendment tabled in Committee and agree with the views that hon. Members expressed then that the amendment should be made. It may be helpful to explain briefly why we feel that that is so. First, we agree that analogy with the penalty for unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl between the ages of 13 and 15 is flawed. My view, for what it is worth, is that the penalty for unlawful sexual intercourse is too low. I know that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House share that view. The Opposition spokesman on these matters certainly does.

1 Mar 1999 : Column 777

As we said in Committee, we expect the penalty for unlawful sexual intercourse to be sorted out as part of the sexual offences review. However, as we believe that it is too low, we accept that it should not determine the level of penalty for the new offence. Given that we are considering a new offence, it is right to take this opportunity to set that penalty at an appropriate level. We must not be unduly influenced by the inappropriate level of penalty that applies in relation to unlawful sexual intercourse. Thus, we are considering the matter on its merits rather than on the basis of an analogy with what we regard to be a flawed penalty.

There is merit in a maximum penalty of five years for the new offence of abuse of trust. We believe that there could be cases, even of 16 or 17-year-olds with ostensibly consensual sexual relations, where a penalty of five years could be properly justified. For example, if someone in a position of trust in a detention setting had sex with a 16-year-old detainee, that would be a very serious offence, which would merit a maximum penalty of five years.

It is important for hon. Members to remember that we are discussing a maximum penalty, which would be used only rarely. Nevertheless, it is right that the courts should have it at their disposal to deal with the most serious cases of abuse. I hope that that argument will commend itself to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

We can envisage those circumstances. The Minister referred to detention centres, but we are also thinking of residential institutions, especially institutions for those with disabilities, in which such a maximum sentence could be justified.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 22, after 'full time', insert 'or part time'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this, it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 6 to 8.

Amendment, by leave, withdraw.

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

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.-- [Mr. Boateng.]

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

The House divided: Ayes 281, Noes 82.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (Aye)Minority (No)BothTurnout
Con6 66 (+2 tell)045.7%
Independent0 10100.0%
Lab256 (+2 tell) 12064.7%
LDem16 1037.0%
PC1 0025.0%
SNP2 0033.3%
UUP0 2020.0%
Total:281 82056.8%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

Tim BoswellDaventryCon (front bench)aye
Graham BradyAltrincham and Sale WestCon (front bench)aye
David CurrySkipton and RiponConaye
Michael FabricantLichfieldCon (front bench)aye
Robert KeySalisburyConaye
Sir Peter LloydFarehamConaye
Mr Donald AndersonSwansea EastLab (minister)no
Joe BentonBootleLab (minister)no
Mr Jamie CannIpswichLabno
Mr Eric ClarkeMidlothianLabno
Mr Denzil DaviesLlanelliLabno
Gwyneth DunwoodyCrewe and NantwichLabno
Mr Kerry PollardSt AlbansLabno
Mr Raymond PowellOgmoreLabno
Mr Allan RogersRhonddaLabno
Mr Ted RowlandsMerthyr Tydfil and RhymneyLab (minister)no
Robert WareingLiverpool, West DerbyLabno
Mr Jimmy WrayGlasgow BailliestonLabno
Bob RussellColchesterLDem (front bench)no

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