Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has called for Foreign Secretary David Miliband to intervene after Gibraltar today voted to defeat a bill equalising the age of consent for gay men.

In a statement, Tatchell said: “As a British Overseas Territory, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has ultimate responsibility for ensuring Gibraltar’s compliance with human rights law.

“I urge the Foreign Secretary to read the riot act to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Peter Caruana. Gibraltar cannot be allowed to evade its human rights obligations.”

The age of consent for heterosexuals and lesbians in Gibraltar is 16 but 18 for gay men.

The Private Members Bill was criticised by equality group GGR over its wording. However, justice minister Daniel Feetham, who introduced it, said the priority was to implement an equal age of consent and that the language issues relating to disabled people would be dealt with in forthcoming legislation. He added that this was understood by a leading disability group.

It was backed by a majority of government members who were present but was voted against unanimously by the opposition.

Opposition members voted against the bill on the grounds that there should be a full consultation on the age of consent for everyone and that it should have been a Government Bill, rather than a Private Members Bill.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The government of Gibraltar is aware of Her Majesty’s Government’s views on the age of consent and we have discussed the issues involved on a number of occasions.”

She added: “The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas. We have a programme of action for promoting the human rights of LGBT people abroad. This made clear that sexual orientation can not be a qualifying factor in the application of human rights.”