HC Deb 01 November 1913 vol 43 cc727-8

Without restriction upon and in addition to any other enactment relating to consent as a defence, a girl who is under the age of sixteen years shall be incompetent to consent to any indecent assault upon her, and no consent or alleged consent shall be pleaded as a defence in any criminal proceedings relating to such an assault, unless the accused shall satisfy the Court or jury that he had reasonable cause to believe that the girl was of or above the age of sixteen years.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

At present the age of consent in this matter is thirteen; I want to raise it to sixteen. It appears to me that the moral defilement which is involved in an indecent assault is just as great as in the case where an actual offence has been committed. I hope the Government will accept this Clause. There is a very strong feeling in the country about it.


I beg to second the Motion.


I recognise the force of what my hon. Friend has said in support of this Clause, and if it were appropriate that the Clause should be considered for the first time on the Report stage, I think he would get a considerable amount of support in the House. But I do not think it would be right at this stage to reopen the whole of the proceedings on the Bill, which was introduced in order to deal with two or three specific points. The Bill was given a Second Reading in the House on that basis, and has been considered on that footing throughout the Committee stage. Consequently to so greatly enlarge the scope of the Bill, however desirable it might be, I think ought not to be done. I therefore ask my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment.


On behalf of the original promoters of the Bill, whilst having great sympathy with the hon. Member in this matter, to try and introduce it at this stage might lead to the recommital of the Bill and its being lost altogether.


Under the circumstances, and being satisfied with what has been said by the Home Secretary and hon. Member whose Bill this is, I do not propose to go to a Division.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.