We have already traversed a variety of aspects of this section of the Bill. I do not intend to become embroiled in repeating the arguments we made. Essentially they related to three issues. I will just mention them to refresh the Minister's memory about the issues on which we were at loggerheads to some degree. The definition of rape was a problem. Perhaps we can deal with that more fully on section 2. The sticking point was the degree to which some types of sexual assault are allegedly at least as serious as the crime of rape itself but are not dealt with as such in the Bill.
Secondly, there was the degree to which the Bill compounds and continues the distinction in relation to some categories of women and their right to take an action. I refer to married women. I tried to show some anomalies, contradictions and injustices which the Bill proposes to legislate into existence. Thirdly, there was the question of the age of a defendant which is referred to and, in this regard, lines 20 and onwards are relevant. I wondered why it was necessary to have any age in the Bill, and whether it would be desirable that a court should have the right under other statutes to adjudicate on what would be appropriate, taking into account the individual circumstances of the case.
There is another anomaly. The age of criminal responsibility here, as we all know, is the lowest in Europe at seven years. This Bill would seem to rule out the possibility of somebody under the age of 14 years being charged with rape which, I have no doubt in 99.9 per cent of cases, would be right and just. There might be circumstances where that might not be appropriate, although I will admit they are hard to envisage. It seems to me that each case should be looked at on its merits. I wonder what the merit is in writing into law an age cut-off point in any case.
The Minister has indicated that he takes the view that the Bill deals with the issue I raised in relation to what has come to be known as marital rape. He said it is very likely that this Bill would facilitate such a prosecution. I should like him to confirm that for us. I should also like him to refer to the other two points: the degree to which there is a relative weakness in respect of crimes of sexual assault, or abuse, which in the eyes of many people would be at least as serious as the repugnant crime of rape but for which the offence would not be the same, or open to being the same and could he give us some rationale for introducing the age into this legislation?