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Column 1091

Portillo, Michael

Powell, William (Corby)

Price, Sir David

Raison, Rt Hon Timothy

Redwood, John

Renton, Tim

Rhodes James, Robert

Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)

Roe, Mrs Marion

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Rost, Peter

Rowe, Andrew

Rumbold, Mrs Angela

Ryder, Richard

Sackville, Hon Tom

Sainsbury, Hon Tim

Sayeed, Jonathan

Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)

Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')

Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)

Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)

Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)

Shersby, Michael

Sims, Roger

Skeet, Sir Trevor

Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)

Soames, Hon Nicholas

Speed, Keith

Speller, Tony

Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)

Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)

Squire, Robin

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Stern, Michael

Stevens, Lewis

Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)

Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)

Stokes, Sir John

Stradling Thomas, Sir John

Sumberg, David

Summerson, Hugo

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Taylor, Ian (Esher)

Taylor, John M (Solihull)

Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)

Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret

Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)

Thornton, Malcolm

Thurnham, Peter

Townend, John (Bridlington)

Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Tracey, Richard

Tredinnick, David

Trippier, David

Twinn, Dr Ian

Vaughan, Sir Gerard

Waddington, Rt Hon David

Wakeham, Rt Hon John

Walker, Bill (T'side North)

Waller, Gary

Walters, Sir Dennis

Ward, John

Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Warren, Kenneth

Watts, John

Wheeler, John

Widdecombe, Ann

Wiggin, Jerry

Wilkinson, John

Wilshire, David

Winterton, Mrs Ann

Winterton, Nicholas

Wolfson, Mark

Wood, Timothy

Woodcock, Mike

Yeo, Tim

Young, Sir George (Acton)

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Tony Durant and

Mr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.


That this House approves the Autumn Statement presented by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer on 1st November 1988 ; endorses the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to ensure that inflation resumes its downward trend ; welcomes the prospect of continued growth and strong investment as the basis for maintaining the trend of rising employment ; and congratulates Her Majesty's Government on the continuing reduction in the share of national income pre-empted by public expenditure.

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Prostitution (Streatham)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Chapman.]

10.15 pm

Sir William Shelton (Streatham) : Prostitution is an unpleasant matter to raise in the House. It is even more unpleasant for my constituents. Over the past few years, a plague--a pollution--has struck a part of my constituency. Certain streets have become red light areas. At night, they swarm with prostitutes. I accept that that is not unique to Streatham, although it is unique to the residents there.

I read the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North- East (Mrs. Hicks) during the proceedings on the Criminal Justice Bill on 20 June. She mentioned similar problems that her constituents face. I felt deep sympathy for her, and especially for her constituents. Unless one lives in the area, one cannot appreciate local residents' acute distress caused by such a plague. I ask the House to imagine what it is like every evening for one who lives there. A local resident said :

"The noise is endless as the cars screech round the roads, viewing the prostitutes as they stand on the corners. The noise of the prostitutes screaming among themselves or at their clients. The pimps and their cars ; the harassment of residents as they walk down their own streets."

Then, every morning, residents must take a broom to sweep away condoms from behind garages.

The residents have mentioned cars on the roads. Last June, local inhabitants took a traffic count. On one quiet evening in one quiet residential avenue which I know well, during the rush hour, between 5 and 6 in the evening, 36 cars passed down that avenue. Between 10 and 11 that night, 127 cars passed down that avenue.

What is being done? Since April of last year, the local police have formed a vice squad. It has a sergeant and three officers. They do not have their own van at their disposal. They must call for the station van if they wish to arrest a prostitute. Nevertheless, in 1987, 239 prostitutes were arrested and prosecuted ; and in 1988, 803 prostitutes were arrested and prosecuted, and 180 kerb crawlers were arrested and prosecuted.

The police send letters to the homes of those kerb crawlers whose car numbers have been taken by residents. The letter asks the reason why the car was there and who was driving it. I take this opportunity to warn all kerb crawlers that if they come to Streatham they may well be arrested and prosecuted. They may well find on their breakfast table a letter from the police asking why their car was being driven around on a certain night. What is more, at least some of the girls have been diagnosed as having AIDS, and a greater number have been diagnosed as having highly infectious hepatitis B. I say to all kerb crawlers, "Do not come to Streatham." Despite all this, the situation has not improved, so more must be done.

First, I have nothing but praise for the local police. They are doing an excellent job with the resources at their disposal. As I said, they have a vice squad of four. Tooting, which was a similar red light area in Wandsworth, up Balham hill, has a vice squad of eight--two sergeants and six policemen--with its own van. I understand that it is a matter of manpower allocation formula and that Tooting and Streatham come under different police areas. This is not a matter for the Government but for the police, but surely we should have similar strength in Streatham as in

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Tooting, where the problem has abated, perhaps due to the police. When the police in Tooting are not over- stretched, could they not co-operate across the borders so that the Tooting police could help the Streatham police?

Secondly, the maximum fine for the conviction of a prostitute is £100 but the average fine imposed last year was about £35. The police tell me that, within 90 minutes of the prostitute being taken to the police station she is out on bail and back on the street. Many of them make £400 or £500 a night. I wish that the magistrates who impose those fines understood the breakdown in law and order that those people cause in the community. There is nothing romantic about prostitutes and what they do to the lives of the residents of the areas they inhabit.

Maximum fines should be increased, if only to encourage magistrates to impose more realistic fines. I suspect that the £100 fine has remained unchanged for many years, and surely it should be increased. The argument that, if the fine were increased, it would drive the girls to ply their trade harder must be invalid. It it were true, it would apply to any thief or fraudster ; one would say that they should not be fined harshly, because they would commit the same crime again. If the prostitutes are back on the job again after 90 minutes, they could not work harder anyway.

The maximum fine for a kerb crawler is £400, but the 108 who were convicted were fined an average of £100. I should like to see stiffer fines for kerb crawlers. Might it be possible to see whether those convicted of kerb crawling could be banned from driving for three months? There is no doubt that kerb crawling is a driving offence. Such people drive slowly, stopping and starting, and sounding their horns, and they do not pay attention to the road.

Thirdly, the police tell me that they can do little about prosecuting pimps with much hope of conviction because they have to prove that they are living off immoral earnings. It is not difficult to prove that a madam or a pimp is running a brothel. However, if they are minding--God help us--two or three girls on the street, it is well nigh impossible to prove. Even if the police see a girl handing money to that wretched person and they are both arrested, they will say that the pimp is the woman's banker and is merely holding the money for her until the next day. The law should be looked at. Perhaps it might be possible to swing the balance of proof on to the man, to make him show that he came by the money honestly and that it is not from immoral earnings. I also wonder whether the Inland Revenue might look more closely at those people. They are well known to the police but cannot be convicted.

Fourthly, the Sexual Offences Act 1985 introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Drake (Dame J. Fookes) is an excellent Act. The problem is that, under it, a kerb crawler commits an offence only if he solicits a woman persistently. If he is kerb crawling to pick up a prostitute, he will not have to solicit persistently. Therefore, that part of the Act is invalid and I am not sure whether any kerb crawler has been prosecuted successfully under it. I understand that no one has been in Streatham.

The reason why 108 kerb crawlers were prosecuted last year in Streatham is that the police used the second part of the Act, which says that a kerb crawler also commits an offence if he causes annoyance to other persons in the

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